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

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Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple

Titles

The original title is not known. Suggested titles include:

  • Possibly 'Scherzo, arrangement in pink, red purple' (1937, J. E. Blanche). 1
  • 'Arrangement in Pink and Purple' (1947, Macbeth). 2
  • 'Arrangement in Pink and Purple' (1960, Arts Council). 3
  • 'Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple' (1980, YMSM). 4

'Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple' is the preferred title.

Description


                    Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum
Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum

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.

Sitter

Several suggestions as to the identity of the sitter have been made, including Maud Franklin (1857-ca 1941) , Millie Finch (fl. 1875-1885) and Olga Alberta Caracciolo (1871–1930/1931) .

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

Adolf De Meyer, Portrait d'Olga de Meyer, photograph, 1902
Adolf De Meyer, Portrait d'Olga de Meyer, photograph, 1902

                    Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum
Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum

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.


                    Study of a Girl's Head and Shoulders,  Art Institute of Chicago
Study of a Girl's Head and Shoulders, Art Institute of Chicago

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).


                    Note in pink and purple, Cincinnati Art Museum
Note in pink and purple, Cincinnati Art Museum

                    Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum
Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple, Cincinnati Art Museum

                    Milly Finch, Freer Gallery of Art
Milly Finch, Freer Gallery of Art

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].

Notes:

1: Blanche 1937 [more] , vol. 1, p. 56.

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).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 324).

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).

6: Blanche 1937 [more] , vol. 1, p. 56.

7: Portrait of Donna Olga Caracciolo Dei Duchi Di Castelluccio,, private collection, in Stair Sainty Gallery website at http://www.stairsainty.com.

8: Blanche 1937, op. cit., p. 52.

9: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 324).

Last updated: 25th November 2020 by Margaret