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

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Black and Emerald: Coal Mine


  • 1885: bought from Messrs Dowdeswell by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) ;
  • 1902: bought from Theobald by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) , August 1902, for $500;
  • 1919: bequeathed by C. L. Freer to the Freer Gallery of Art.

It was exhibited in Whistler's one-man exhibition 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884, but not sold during the show. Whistler described the purchaser as 'the man who bought the lot that remained over after the exhibition of the "Flesh color & grey". ' 1 Messrs Dowdeswell's accounts record the purchase of twenty-nine drawings by H. S. Theobald of 3 Westbourne Square, London; Theobald's receipt is dated 1 July 1885. 2

In June 1902, Whistler sent C. L. Freer a telegram 'Theobald paintings at Marchants') informing him that the paintings owned by Theobald were apparently for sale, and Freer bought this one the following month, August 1902, for $500. 3


  • 1884: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 59) as 'Black and Emerald - Coal Mine'.
  • 1884: Annual Exhibition of Sketches, Pictures & Photography: A Loan Collection of Pictures by Mr Whistler ..., Dublin Sketching Club, Dublin, 1884 (cat. no. 248).
  • 1887: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 174) as 'Vert et noir: La Mine abandonnée'.

It was exhibited in London by Messrs Dowdeswell in 1884 and in Dublin in the same year.

Whistler wanted to keep track of his works, including those owned by Theobald, as he wrote to Walter Dowdeswell (1858-1929):

'I must know the whereabouts of every one of my little pictures -

You promised that you would give me the address of each one by referring to the catalogues -

… you must arrange with the man who bought the lot that remained over after the exhibition ... to let his collection go with me to America.' 4

It seems that Whistler planned to visit America about October 1885, intending to reach New York, and hoped to exhibit the works owned by H. S. Theobald in an exhibition at that time, but neither the trip nor the loan were arranged. 5 Instead, in 1887, Whistler requested loans for an exhibition in Paris:

' I am sending some pictures and drawings of mine to a very swell exhibition in Paris - and I am most anxious to borrow from you some 14 or 15 of the little things of mine you have on the staircase and in your dining room, that I may exhibit them at the same time -' 6

Theobald was a generous lender and, as 'Vert et noir: La Mine abandonnée', this oil was among works shown at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1887.

By the terms of C. L. Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, the painting cannot be lent.


1: Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, [27 September 1885], GUW #08616.

2: Dowdeswell's account, [July 1885/1886], GUW #00867; H. S. Theobald, receipt, 1 July 1885, GUW #00858.

3: 6 June 1902, GUW #11596.

4: Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, [27 September 1885], GUW #08616.

5: H. Wunderlich to Whistler, GUW #07153.

6: Whistler to H. S. Theobald, [26 April 1887], GUW #10891.

Last updated: 11th November 2020 by Margaret