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

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Black and Emerald: Coal Mine

Titles

Several conflicting titles have been suggested, as follows:

  • 'Black and Emerald – Coal Mine' (1884, Dowdeswell). 1
  • 'Vert et noir: La Mine abandonnée' (1887, Petit). 2
  • 'Blue and Green; The Coal Shaft' (1948, Stubbs). 3
  • 'Black and Emerald: Coal Mine' (1980, YMSM). 4
  • 'Blue and Emerald – Coal Mine' (2014, Freer Gallery of Art). 5

The title given on the Freer Gallery website in 2014 appears to have been a mistake, because it was called Black and Emerald - Coal Mine in the brief accompanying text.

Our title is based on the first published title, the assumption being that Dowdeswell's titles were provided by Whistler. The punctuation was regularised for the 1980 catalogue, and thus 'Black and Emerald: Coal Mine' is the generally accepted title.

Curry, after commenting on Whistler's take on post-industrial landscape, suggests that the title 'Vert et noir: La Mine abandonnée', given at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1887, 'may also constitute Whistler's comment upon academic tradition, that is "finished" painting as a played-out ideological vein for artists.' 6

Description


                    Black and Emerald: Coal Mine, Freer Gallery of Art
Black and Emerald: Coal Mine, Freer Gallery of Art

A landscape, in horizontal format, with grass in the foreground, and then rough terrain with grey and black ruined mine buildings on the hill at left, and a few bushes at right, under a blue sky streaked with clouds. A cloud has been painted over a bush on the skyline towards the right. It is signed with a pale grey butterfly at lower left.

Site

The site is unknown, but this could have been painted in Yorkshire. There were many active, abandoned, and recently closed mines in the area around Wortley Hall, Yorkshire, which may have been where this was painted. Another oil painted there, Note in Green: Wortley [YMSM 303], is similar in technique.

Alternatively, as the Freer Gallery of Art website commented, 'Black and Emerald – Coal Mine was probably painted in St. Ives.' 7 And there were indeed old mines in the St Ives area, mostly tin and copper – but they had to import coal to process the metals.

Notes:

1: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 54).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 174).

3: Stubbs 1948 [more] , p. 16 (02.153).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] , cat. no. 302.

5: Freer Gallery of Art website at https://asia.si.edu/object/F1902.153a-b.

6: Curry 1984 [more] , p. 132, pl. 36.

7: Freer Gallery of Art website at https://asia.si.edu/object/F1902.153a-b.

Last updated: 11th November 2020 by Margaret