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

Home  > Catalogue > Exhibitions > London_1903a (related works) > Search Display

Red and Black: The Fan

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested, although some of these may be references to Rose et or: La Tulipe [YMSM 418]:

  • 'the red Lady' (1891, Whistler). 1
  • 'Woman in Red' (1894, A. A. Pope). 2
  • Possibly 'the red picture' (1896, Whistler). 3
  • 'the red Bunnie' (1897, Whistler). 4
  • 'Rouge et Noir – L'Eventail' (1903, Royal Society of Portrait Painters). 5
  • 'Red and Black: The Fan' (1980, YMSM). 6

'Red and Black: The Fan' is the generally accepted title.

Description


                    Red and Black: The Fan, The Hunterian
Red and Black: The Fan, The Hunterian

A full-length standing figure of a woman in vertical format. She wears a red dress, and her body is turned slightly to the right, but she is looking at the viewer. She is wearing a black feather boa, and a tall black hat with a red ribbon. She wears black gloves and holds a black fan, half-opened, clasped in both hands in front of her. The background is a warm brown, the floor darker brown.

Sitter

 Ethel Whibley at 110 rue du Bac, 1896/1898, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/51
Ethel Whibley at 110 rue du Bac, 1896/1898, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/51
 Ethel Whibley and Mrs Birnie Philip, 1896/1909, photograph by W. D. Downey, GUL Whistler PH1/166
Ethel Whibley and Mrs Birnie Philip, 1896/1909, photograph by W. D. Downey, GUL Whistler PH1/166

This is one of several portraits of Whistler's sister-in-law Ethel Philip, later Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) . She married Charles Whibley (1859-1930) in 1895.

Whistler's nickname for Ethel was 'Bunnie'. It is possible that references to 'the red Lady' and 'the red Bunnie' refer in fact to Rose et or: La Tulipe [YMSM 418], which was being painted at the same time, and which was called on one occasion 'the red picture' by Whistler. 7

Fashion plate, The Queen, vol. 86, 2 November 1889, f.p. 604
Fashion plate, The Queen, vol. 86, 2 November 1889, f.p. 604

Whistler took a close interest in women's dress, and the clothes worn by Ethel in his portraits follow the latest fashions. They were probably copies of couture outfits, inspired by magazine illustrations, and made up by her dressmaker. 8

Notes:

1: Whistler to Beatrice Whistler, [14 June 1891], GUW #06593.

2: A. A. Pope to Whistler, 27 November 1894, GUW#05000.

3: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [28 June 1896], GUW #09761.

4: Whistler to Rosalind Birnie Philip, [26 July 1897], GUW #04712.

5: 13th Exhibition, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1903 (cat. no. 4).

6: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 388).

7: E. G. Kennedy, [28 June 1896], GUW #09761.

8: MacDonald 2003 [more] , pp. 196-201.

Last updated: 2nd June 2021 by Margaret