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

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A Grey Note: Village Street

Titles

Several titles have been suggested:

  • 'Little Shop; grey note' (1884, Dowdeswell). 1
  • Probably 'Note grise: La petite Boutique' (1887, Petit). 2
  • 'Une note grise – Coin de Rue' (1888, Whistler). 3
  • 'Eine graue Stimmung: Strassen-Ecke' (1888, III. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Munich). 4
  • 'A Grey Note; Village Street' (1905, Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Paris). 5
  • 'A Grey Note – Village Street' (1936, University of Glasgow). 6
  • 'A Grey Note: Village Street' (1980, YMSM). 7

Although it is almost certain that the original title was 'Little Shop; grey note', this painting has become known as A Grey Note: Village Street'; the punctuation is in conformity with other titles.

Description


                    A Grey Note: Village Street, The Hunterian
A Grey Note: Village Street, The Hunterian

A street corner, painted on a horizontal panel. A cobbled street slopes down to the right and round a corner. A white dog is in the lower right foreground. The painting centres on two storeys of a house, which is painted a dull yellow, with white or grey windows, a dark doorway, and dark grey paintwork below the ground floor windows. A greengrocer's shop is on the ground floor (the shop window is at left, then the closed door, and a smaller window to right), and there are two windows above, the small windows all being lace-curtained. Two children, very faintly indicated, peer at the fruit in the shop. On the far side of the street, at right, a man stands looking at pictures and posters in a large shop window. A very small butterfly is painted on the wall at left.

Site

The fishing port of St Ives, Cornwall, in south-west England. Whistler painted this view of Fore Street, St Ives, during a three-month visit to Cornwall. He would have passed this building each day on the route from his lodgings at Barnoon Terrace down to the harbour. It is believed that the front of this house was later altered.

Albert Moulton Foweraker (1873-1942) was staying at 25 Fore Street at the time of the 1891 Census; the building painted by Whistler appears in the background of Foweraker's painting The Entrance to Fore Street 8

A 1906 photograph of Fore Street by the firm of Francis Frith shows a cobbled street, on a slight hill, lined with three-storey buildings. It was a busy street, with small shops on each side. 9

Notes:

1: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 41).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 167).

3: Whistler to R. Koehler, [June 1888], GUW #04202.

4: III. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1888 (cat. no. 64).

5: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 8).

6: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 12).

7: YMSM 1980 [more] , cat. no. 265.

8: David Tovey, Pioneers of St Ives art at home and abroad (1989-1914), Tewkesbury, 2008, p. 256, repr. Our thanks to Martin Hopkinson for this and other references to paintings of St Ives.

9: Francis Frith website at http://www.francisfrith.com.

Last updated: 23rd May 2021 by Margaret