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

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Arrangement in Violet and Pink: Mrs Walter Sickert

Arrangement in Violet and Pink: Mrs Walter Sickert dates from between 1885 and 1887. 1

1885: The sitter's husband Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) commissioned a portrait of his wife, Ellen Mellicent Sickert (1848-1914). However, shortly afterwards he was in serious need of money and asked Whistler to let him have back the deposit:

'I want you if you can to let me have back the balance of £25 which you have on account for Nellie's portrait for a while. Of course whenever you can arrange to paint it & care to do so, we will make arrangements in good time to sell out & let you have the complete £100.' 2

1885-1886: Mrs Sickert sat to Whistler on 23 December 1885, and then there was a long delay (the Sickerts went abroad on 21 July 1886) but she suggested further sittings in December 1886. 3 It is, however, not entirely clear whether the sittings were for this portrait or for Green and Violet: Portrait of Mrs Walter Sickert [YMSM 338].

1887: Arrangement in Violet and Pink: Mrs Walter Sickert was probably completed in October 1887, when Sickert sent Whistler a final cheque:

'I enclose a cheque for £42. 10. the balance for Nellie's portrait.

Of course it is impossible to thank you at all for doing us such a work. We shall always look upon it as practically a magnificent present. ... certainly the moneys are ludicrous, & bear no sort of proportion to the value of the work.

… Will you also tell your framemaker to send me in his bill for the frame.' 4

It was exhibited at the 64th Annual Exhibition, Royal Society of British Artists, London, 1887 (cat. no. 157) as 'Arrangement in violet and pink. (Portrait of Mrs. Walter Sickert)'.

Bernhard Sickert (1862-1932) stated in 1908 that, according to the sitter, the portrait was destroyed. 5


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 337).

2: [December 1885/1886], GUW #05254.

3: E.M.C. Sickert to Whistler, 2 December 1886, GUW #05421.

4: [October 1887], GUW #05434.

5: B. Sickert 1908 A [more] , p. 164.

Last updated: 12th November 2020 by Margaret