The original title is not known. Suggested titles include:
'Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple' is the preferred title.
A study in vertical format of a young woman standing in front of a chaise longue (the high end of the couch being at left) which is covered in red drapery that has a white and grey pattern. Clothes (possibly scarves or shawls) in white and pink, grey, black and dark reddish brown are scattered on the chaise longue. Behind this is a dark blue curtain and other hangings in grey (at left) and buff (at right). The woman is wearing a close-fitting dress in very pale pinkish-lilac (nearly white), with a narrow black belt. It has a high neck and three-quarter length sleeves. In her right hand she holds up her skirt, which has two broad rows of pleats at the hem. There is a red ribbon in her short curly brown hair, a red scarf round her neck, and red stockings on one slim foot – the left foot, which points forward; her other foot is barely visible in the shadows under her skirt.
Frederick Sweet first suggested the model was Maud Franklin, as did Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) in 1960, but in 1968 it was proposed that this Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple was a painting bought by J. E. Blanche in 1885 and that the sitter was Olga Alberta Caracciolo, later the Baroness de Meyer, who was the daughter of the Duchess of Caracciolo. 5
However this is not certain. What Blanche actually said was that he, Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) and Whistler were admirers of the lovely young Olga Caracciolo in Dieppe in 1885: 'Olga inspired a Scherzo, arrangement in pink, red and purple, a few spots of colour which I bought from the painter of Nocturnes because the pose he used was the same as that in my portrait.' 6
There is indeed a portrait by Blanche showing Olga Caracciolo in a pink dress, facing right (her face in three-quarter view to right) and holding a hat, which is dated 1889, and which bears a faint resemblance to Whistler's Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple. 7 A couple of years later, in 1891, a portrait of Olga, seated, by Blanche, was exhibited in the New English Art Club (cat. no. 55) as Pink Rose, and admired by Sickert at that time; Blanche asserted that this portrait had originally been seen by Sickert and Whistler in Dieppe (which would have been in 1885). 8 However, the pose and composition of Pink Rose does not look remotely like Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple [YMSM 324], and it seems likely Blanche got his lines crossed, as he often did. He was, after all, writing some fifty years after the events recorded.
It has also been suggested – unconvincingly – that other portraits by Whistler show Olga Caracciolo; these include Study of a Girl's Head and Shoulders [YMSM 486] (but this dates from the 1890s), and Study in Brown [YMSM 313] (a Chelsea girl, also from the 1890s).
A watercolour, Note in pink and purple [M.0935], also in the Cincinnati Art Museum, provides an interesting comparison with oil, Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, and suggests another possibility as to the model. 9 This watercolour has been identified as a portrait of Millie Finch (fl. 1875-1885). Finch appeared in several paintings when Maud Franklin was indisposed (Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237], Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch [YMSM 238], and Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch [YMSM 239]). She has a strong resemblance to the model in Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple. Furthermore, she posed reclining on the famous red chaise longue for another watercolour, Milly Finch [M.0907].
2: Whistler Loan Exhibition, Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1947 (cat. no. 31).
3: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 48).
5: Exhibition catalogue Chicago and New York 1954 [more] (cat. no. 102); Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 48); Sweet, Frederick A., James McNeill Whistler, Art Institute of Chicago and Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, 1968 (cat. no. 32).
8: Blanche 1937, op. cit., p. 52.
Last updated: 25th November 2020 by Margaret