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

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Study in Brown

Titles

Suggested titles are:

  • 'Study in Brown' (1905, ISSPG). 1
  • 'A Study in Rose and Brown' (1908, Macbeth). 2
  • 'Study in Brown' (1980, YMSM). 3
  • 'A Study in Rose Brown' (2017, Muskegon Art Museum). 4

The first published title, 'Study in Brown', although not necessarily Whistler's, is preferred.

Description


                    Study in Brown, Muskegon Museum of Art
Study in Brown, Muskegon Museum of Art

A half length portrait of a girl with long brown hair, in vertical format. She sits with her arms crossed, hands resting in her lap, in three quarter view to right, but looking at the viewer. She wears a pinkish-brown dress with a black yoke.

Sitter

Despite common features shared by many of Whistler's child portraits, there is no conclusive proof of the identity of the girl.


                    Study in Brown, Muskegon Museum of Art
Study in Brown, Muskegon Museum of Art

                    Study in Brown, photo
Study in Brown, photo

When the painting was acquired, it was thought to represent Rosa Beatrice Rendall (1886-1958) who posed for The Little Rose of Lyme Regis [YMSM 449]. In American Pictures and their Paintings, L. M. Bryant commented somewhat emotionally:

'In his "Study in Rose and Brown", ... we feel that little Rose's calm rebellion ... against the whole world – has a suggestion of a child understanding far beyond her years. Back of those eyes of the blacksmith's daughter is an uncanny spirit of mocking self-assurance ... She is as individual a personality, with her searching eyes of almost uncanny intelligence, as the artist himself. Now look at her hands and see if we can rid ourselves of her influence as a living power. Such a child lives as does Maggie Tolliver and Little Nell.' 5

However, the face appears rather longer and the hair a different colour from Rosie Rendall's, although the girl could have been another Lyme Regis model.

It has also been suggested that it was a portrait of Olga Alberta Caracciolo (1871–1930/1931) because of her later ownership of the portrait. 6 Unfortunately, it really does not look like her and is more likely to be a portrait of a local girl in London.

If, as the signature suggests, the portrait dates from the mid- to late-1890s, it could be one of several missing portraits, such as Head of a Girl [YMSM 432], or Devonshire Daisy [YMSM 446]

Notes:

1: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 22).

2: Paintings by a Group of American Artists. Copley to Whistler, Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1908 (cat. no. 35).

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 313).

4: Muskegon Art Museum website at http://www.muskegonartmuseum.org/mma-permanent-collection.

5: Bryant, Lorinda Munson, American pictures and their painters, New York, 1917, p. 93. Online at https://archive.org.

6: Pickvance, Ronald, 'Blanche and Whistler', typescript, GUL WPP.

Last updated: 7th December 2020 by Margaret