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

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Miss Ethel Philip Reading


Whistler's original title is not known. Two variations of the title are recorded:

  • 'Mrs. Charles Whibley Reading' (1960, Arts Council). 1
  • 'Miss Ethel Philip Reading' (1980, YMSM). 2

These titles refer to the same sitter, Ethel Philip, who was married in 1895, becoming Ethel Whibley (1861-1920). Since this portrait is thought to date from before her marriage, 'Miss Ethel Philip Reading' is the preferred title.


                    Miss Ethel Philip Reading, The Hunterian
Miss Ethel Philip Reading, The Hunterian

An interior, painted in vertical format, showing a woman in profile to left, sitting in an armchair and reading a book. In front of her, at left, is a table covered with a cloth. Behind is a fireplace surmounted by a mirror.


A label on the verso reads: 'Miss Ethel Philip (later Mrs Charles Whibley) in Whistlers Drawing Room in the Rue du Bac, Paris'. The Whistlers moved into 110 rue du Bac in 1892. Getscher pointed out that the same armchair appears in the lithograph The Sisters c109. 3


W. & D. Downey, Ethel Whibley reclining in a chair, 1895/1903, platinum print,
GUL Whistler PH1/51, 2491
W. & D. Downey, Ethel Whibley reclining in a chair, 1895/1903, platinum print, GUL Whistler PH1/51, 2491

Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) .

Whistler did a number of portraits of his sister-in-law, most of which are full-length portraits such as Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian [YMSM 378], or lithographs, such as The Winged Hat c034, Gants de suède c035, and The Sisters c109.


A small and intimate portrait, as the Hunterian website commented: 'The intimate domesticity of the scene is reminiscent of the work of Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) whom Whistler is likely to have met in Paris around this date.' 4


1: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 60), and in later catalogues until 1980.

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 417).

3: Getscher, Robert, The Stamp of Whistler, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, 1977, p. 31 (cat. no. 9).

4: The Hunterian website at

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret