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

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Caprice in Red


  • Unknown.


  • 1884: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 64) as 'Caprice in red'.
  • 1884: Annual Exhibition of Sketches, Pictures & Photography: A Loan Collection of Pictures by Mr Whistler ..., Dublin Sketching Club, Dublin, 1884 (cat. no. 249) as 'Caprice in red'.

The title attracted notice, and unflattering criticism, at Dowdeswell's in 1884. Fun, for instance, commented on Whistler's 'great capacity for inventing strange titles for his eccentric productions' including 'Caprice in Red', and an unidentified reviewer commented that the subject 'must be left to the intelligence of the amateur'. 1

In 1884 the painting joined a large group of works exhibited in Dublin. The Dublin Daily Express defended Whistler against criticism:

'On the small drawings - caprices, nocturnes, notes in pink and red - the critical wrath of the uneducated and inexperienced waxed hot, and such complimentary remarks as "rubbish", "daubs", "unfinished", "has to be looked at from a long way off", were as plentiful as blackberries, but as time passed on and the real skill and genius of the painter were pointed out ... . the ferocity abated and a more generous and rational estimate was taken. The fact is Mr. Whistler sees nature in his own way.' 2


1: 'Whistler's "Notes," "Harmonies," "Nocturnes," etc. in Bond Street', Fun, 4 June 1884; press cuttings in GUL Whistler PC 6 and in PC7 p. 16.

2: 'The Private View at the Dublin Sketching Club', Dublin Daily Express, Dublin, 1 December 1884, p. 5. Quoted in Anderson, Ronald, 'Whistler in Dublin, 1884', Irish Arts Review (1984-1987), Autumn, 1986, vol. 3, no. 3 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 45-51 , at p. 48.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret