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

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Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian

Provenance

  • 1900: bought by Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) of Wunderlich's, New York art dealers;
  • 1900: sold to John Howard Whittemore (1837-1910) , Naugatuck, MA;
  • 1910: after John Howard Whittemore's death, passed to the J. H. Whittemore Company with a life-interest to his daughter, Gertrude Buckingham Whittemore (1874-1941) ;
  • 1941: lent after her death to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC;
  • 1943: presented to the National Gallery of Art by Harris Whittemore, Jr (1894-1974) , President of the J. H. Whittemore Co., and his sister, Gertrude Spencer Whittemore (Mrs Charles Hiram Upson) (1903-1987) , on behalf of the J. H. Whittemore Co.

1896: In February, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) of Wunderlich & Co., New York, asked the price of 'the girl ... in black or grey' but Whistler refused to consider selling it without doing further work on it. 1 In July, according to Kennedy, the portrait 'in grey and black' was one of three full-lengths in the Fitzroy Street studio that he was going to have when the hands were completed. 2

E. G. Kennedy, and the firm he represented, H. Wunderlich & Co., were repeatedly frustrated by attempts to buy the portraits of Ethel Whibley. On 4 September 1896 the firm tried to clarify arrangements made in the summer between Kennedy and Whistler:

'The agreement is that he bought of you in the first place, the Smith, the little Rose and the portrait of Mrs. Whilby [sic], either the black one or the pink one, for £1500/-/-. Upon you saying: "You will give £2000/-/- for the four, I suppose," Mr. Kennedy said: "Yes, I will, but you will agree to finish the hands of the pink one, and complete the one in black and mauve to your satisfaction". When Mr. Kennedy was leaving England you said that you thought of giving the pink portrait to the Luxembourg gallery, but upon Mr. Kennedy showing that the lack of the pink portrait in America would embarrass him, you said that you would either let him have that one or paint another one similar.

Five hundred pounds was paid down to seal the bargain, and when we receive the one full length we shall pay £1000/-/-, two full length making £2000/-/- in all. It is understood by Mr. Kennedy that you would not put in the fourth picture at the price you did, except as a temptation to buy another.' 3

Negotiations continued for several years. When Whistler finally completed the picture four years later he told E. G. Kennedy, who had never quite given up hope of obtaining one of the portraits:

'Now write at once and tell me what is our arrangement - if there be one that is after your own heart - about the full lengths - For, you see, one of them I have completed - the one that you said was in the "slate coloured dress" -

The picture is now hung on the walls of the American section - Exposition Universelle - looking very magnificent - and is called "Nacre et Argent", ["]l'Andalouse". - I ought to have a couple of thousand guineas for this work - Write me a line - I don't think you ever cared very much for this "slate" coloured lady anyhow.' 4

The sale was settled and Kennedy agreed to let Whistler retain copyright; the artist arranged that after the Paris Exposition Universelle, 'L'Andalousienne' would be sent by Gauchard (dates unknown) in the rue Blanche to Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) in London, for shipment to New York; Kennedy noted that he had sold it to 'Mr Whittemore of Naugatuck', that is, John Howard Whittemore (1837-1910) . 5 However, Whittemore family records give a date of 6 January 1902 for the acquisition. 6

Exhibitions

  • 1900: Exposition Universelle, Grand Palais, Paris, 1900 (cat. no. 46); Fine Arts Exhibit of the United States of America (cat. no. 103) as 'Mother-of-Pearl and Silver – The Andalusian.'
  • 1902: Seventy-first Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1902 (cat. no. 49) as 'The Andalusian'.
  • 1902: Twenty-fourth Annual Exhibition, Society of American Artists, New York, 1902 (cat. no. 21) as 'L'Andalusienne'.
  • 1904: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 46) as 'L'Andalusienne'.
  • 1905: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 25) as 'L'Andalouse'.

From 1891 on, Whistler's friends and art dealers had been trying to persuade him to exhibit his portraits of Ethel Philip. In May 1891, Théodore Duret was disappointed not to see 'un des portraits de votre belle soeur' at the 1st Exhibition, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. 7

In May 1894 E. G. Kennedy urged Whistler to send works to the USA, 'Now, why not get up that exhibition for America, where things can be sold?' 8 In November of the same year Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920) was also hoping that Whistler would send 'the magnificent portraits of Miss Phillip' to America:

'If Miss Phillip has any objection to sending them to America, believing that this country is ... immature, simply call her attention to the theatrical practice of trying a new play upon ... some provincial town supposed to be without taste or discrimination in theatrical matters.' 9

This did not prove sufficient incentive!

Even four years later, when Francis Howard (1874-1954) wanted 'the portrait of your Sister-in-law' (it is not clear which one) for the ISSPG, Whistler was not ready to exhibit one. 10


                    Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, photograph, 1894/1900
Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, photograph, 1894/1900

                    Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, National Gallery of Art
Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, National Gallery of Art

At some time after 1894 the painting was photographed (it is reproduced above), and by 1900, it was completed and finally exhibited in Paris, as Whistler told E. G. Kennedy: 'The picture is now hung on the walls of the American section - Exposition Universelle - looking very magnificent - and is called "Nacre et Argent", ["]l'Andalouse".' 11 Later he told Kennedy, 'The "Andalouse" is of course very swagger and in beautiful condition.' 12 The Daily Chronicle correspondent agreed, describing it as 'a subtle and elegant portrait of a woman', while the Manchester Courier commented merely that it was 'original in conception'. 13 Whistler was awarded a Grand prix for his exhibits, but there was a brief spat when the Daily Chronicle wrongly suggested that his work did not qualify (one of his exhibits was painted years earlier, but two, including this portrait, were recent works). 14

The portrait was on its way to America immediately after the exhibition, and was then shown in both Philadelphia and New York in 1902, indeed, Whistler was awarded the Temple Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 15

Notes:

1: Kennedy to Whistler, 25 February 1896, GUW #07266; Whistler to Kennedy, [14 and 28 March 1896], GUW #09738, #09739.

2: Note by Kennedy dated 6 September 1903, inserted in letterbook beside Whistler’s letter of [28 June 1896], GUW #09761.

3: GUW #07280. The four are Rose et or: La Tulipe [YMSM 418], Harmony in Black: Portrait of Miss Ethel Philip [YMSM 419], The Little Rose of Lyme Regis [YMSM 449], and The Master Smith of Lyme Regis [YMSM 450].

4: 1 May 1900, GUW #09801.

5: Wunderlich's to Whistler, 5 June 1900, GUW #07326; Whistler to J. B. Caldwall, 6 June 1900, GUW #04418; Kennedy to Whistler, 18 September 1900, GUW #07327.

6: Smith, Ann Y., Hidden in Plain Sight: The Whittemore Collection and the French Impressionists, Garnet Hill Publishing Co. and Mattatuck Historical Society, 2009, p. 92.

7: T. Duret to Whistler, 15 May 1891, GUW #00986.

8: E. G. Kennedy to Whistler, 20 May 1894, GUW #07233.

9: A. J. Eddy to Whistler, 20 November 1894, GUW #01018.

10: F. Howard to Whistler [11 April 1898], GUW #02306.

11: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 1 May 1900, GUW #09801.

12: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [12 May 1900], GUW #09800.

13: 'The Paris Exhibition. Foreign Art', Morning Post, London, 10 May 1900, p. 5. 'Our Paris Letter. Foreign Art at the Exhibition', Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 22 May 1900, p. 10.

14: Daily Chronicle, 6 October 1900; letters from G. & W. Webb to the Daily Chronicle, [8/22 October 1900], GUW #06260, and to Messrs Cassell, [December 1900/January 1901], GUW #06262. 'The Grand Prix for Painting at the Paris Exhibition - A Protest,' Magazine of Art, November 1900, p. 1. A partial apology was published in February 1901 ('Mr Whistler and the Paris Exhibition' in 'Chronicle of Art – February,' Magazine of Art, February 1901, p. 189).

15: E. H. Coates to Whistler, 12 February 1902, GUW #04626.

Last updated: 19th April 2021 by Margaret