Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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Harmony in Red: Lamplight

Titles

Known titles vary slightly in content, language, capitalisation and punctuation:

  • 'Harmony in Red. Lamplight' (1886, Society of British Artists). 1
  • 'Harmony in Red. Lamplight' (1904, Copley Society, Boston). 2
  • 'Harmonie en rouge; éclairage de lampe – Portrait de Madame J. McNeill Whistler – (Harmony in Red. Lamplight. Portrait of Mrs J. McNeill Whistler.)' (1905, Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Paris). 3
  • 'Harmony in Red – Lamplight (Portrait of Mrs. Whistler)' (1936, University of Glasgow). 4
  • 'Harmony in Red: Lamplight' (1980, YMSM) 5

The original title, 'Harmony in Red: Lamplight', is that generally accepted, with the punctuation changed (a colon replacing the full stop) for consistency with other titles.

Description


                    Harmony in Red: Lamplight, The Hunterian
Harmony in Red: Lamplight, The Hunterian

A full-length portrait of a woman in vertical format. She wears an orangey-red hat and a cloak over a black dress, and stands, hands on hips, looking at the viewer. The background is a similar brownish red. She casts a shadow behind and to the right.

Sitter

Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) . Beatrice, second daughter of the sculptor John Birnie Philip (1824-1875) and Frances Philip (1824-1917), was born on 12 May 1857. She married the architect Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) on 4 January 1876, and had one son, Edward Godwin (b. 1876), who became a sculptor. She was an artist, and a collection of her paintings, prints and drawings is in the Hunterian, University of Glasgow.

According to Sutherland:

'No hint of impropriety tainted their relationship, but Lady Colin Campbell, still posing for her own portrait, suspected something was up. Trixie arrived so regularly to "carry him off" each afternoon that the Leopard, anticipating her arrival, teased Whistler by saying, "Isn't it time for the Little Widdie?" ' 6

E. W. Godwin died on 6 October 1886. The widow married Whistler on 14 August 1888. She died of cancer on 10 May 1896.

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), who was also posing to Whistler in the Fulham Road studio at that time, made an etching of Beatrice posing for this portrait. 7

Notes:

1: Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1886 (cat. no. 227).

2: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 47).

3: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 23).

4: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 26).

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 253).

6: Sutherland 2014 [more] , p. 219.

7: Private collection; see Sickert to Whistler, [14 May/June 1896], GUW #05443.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret