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

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Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Brown: Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy

Titles

Minor variations on the title have been suggested:

  • 'Arrangement in Flesh Colour & Brown, Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy. of Chicago.' (1894, Whistler). 1
  • 'An Arrangement in Flesh Color and Brown' (1904, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia). 2
  • 'Arthur J. Eddy' (1922, Art Institute of Chicago). 3
  • 'Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Brown: Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy' (1980, YMSM). 4

'Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Brown: Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy' is the preferred title.

In this catalogue raisonné Whistler's title or the first published title is retained, wherever possible. Whistler’s use of “flesh colour” to describe colour, as here, implies a racist presumption that skin tone is defined as 'white' or Caucasian.

Description


                    Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Brown: Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy, Art Institute of
Chicago
Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Brown: Portrait of Arthur J. Eddy, Art Institute of Chicago

A full-length life-size portrait of a man, in vertical format. He is in three-quarter view to right, but faces the viewer. He has neat dark blonde hair parted just to (his) left of centre, and a very modest moustache. He wears a long black caped overcoat over a grey suit. His left hand is not seen but was apparently holding a rolled sheet of paper; his right hand holds beige gloves, and a glossy black hat with a narrow brim and high rounded crown.

Sitter


                     Arthur J. Eddy, photograph, Art Institute of Chicago
Arthur J. Eddy, photograph, Art Institute of Chicago

The Chicago lawyer, writer and collector of modern art, Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920), wrote a book on Whistler, Recollections and Impressions of James A. McNeill Whistler (Philadelphia & London 1903). He also wrote several books on tariffs, law, and farming. As a writer and collector he made an important contribution to the introduction of cubism and abstraction in America. He bequeathed his collection to the Art Institute of Chicago.

He wrote of Whistler:

'In the clearness of his vision and the faithfulness with which he painted the things and people with which he came in contact, Whistler was an Impressionist - an Impressionist long before Monet, but in his search after color and line music, in his attempts to do things beyond and above nature, he was a Post-Impressionist.' 5

There were mixed views from family and friends as to whether the portrait actually looked like Eddy, as he admitted to Whistler:

'As to the likeness, some think it subtle and perfect - others say they see more of you in it than of me - to those I simply say "Such is the fate of all who have portraits painted by J. McNeill Whistler". It is amusing to hear the comments - it is still more amusing to hear people say they like it simply (I know) because it is a Whistler.' 6

Comments

In 1931 Daniel Caton Rich described the portrait as 'a full length and very beautiful portrait of [Eddy] by Whistler, painted about 1896 in the artist's most silvery and subtle tints.' 7

The Art Institute of Chicago website discusses Whistler's portraits:

'Sensitive and understated in their characterization of sitters, his portraits were also conceived as compositions of subtle color and form, as the first part of the title of the Art Institute’s work, Arrangement in Flesh Color and Brown.

This portrait depicts the lawyer Arthur Jerome Eddy. Eddy asked Whistler to paint his likeness after seeing the artist’s work in the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. Eddy traveled to Whistler’s Paris studio, where the two apparently formed a lasting friendship ...

In the portrait, Whistler used a muted palette and placed his subject against a subdued, gray background. Eddy commented on the artist’s technique: "It was as if the portrait were hidden within the canvas and the master by passing his wand day after day over the surface evoked the image." ' 8

Notes:

1: Inscription on verso.

2: 73rd Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1904 (cat. no. 31).

3: Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Late Arthur Jerome Eddy, Art Institute of Chicago, 1922 (cat. no. 66).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 425).

5: Eddy, A. J., Cubists and Post-Impressionism, Chicago, 1914, p. 18; online at https://archive.org.

6: 16 December [1894], GUW #01020.

7: The Arthur Jerome Eddy Collection of Modern Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, 1931, p. 7.

8: Art Institute of Chicago website at http://www.artic.edu/aic/resources/resource/132. See also Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1999, p. 101.

Last updated: 27th April 2021 by Margaret