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

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The Little Rose of Lyme Regis

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'The Rose' (1896, D. C. Thomson). 1
  • 'Little Rose' (1896, Whistler) 2
  • 'The Little Rose of Lyme Regis' (1904, Copley Society, Boston). 3
  • 'The Little Rose of Lyme Regis' (1980, YMSM). 4

'The Little Rose of Lyme Regis' is the preferred title.

Description


                    The Little Rose of Lyme Regis, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The Little Rose of Lyme Regis, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

A half-length portrait of a girl facing the viewer, in vertical format. Her hands are clasped in her lap. Her long brown hair falls forward over her left ear and is drawn back behind her right ear. She wears a red pinafore over a dark blouse.

Sitter

Rosa Beatrice Rendall (1886-1958) , the daughter of George John Rendall (1853-1921), Mayor and Alderman of Lyme Regis. 5 She was nine years old. She became a draper's assistant in Exeter, Devon, and in 1914 married Ernest Aubrey Herridge, a gentleman's outfitter, of St Leonards, Exeter. She died in 1958, and her husband died in 1963.

It is possible she also posed to Arthur Haythorne Studd (1863-1919) in Lyme Regis. Studd (whom Whistler called 'Peter') stayed briefly in Lyme Regis while Whistler was there, and Whistler wrote later to his wife:

'You must make Peter show you his things - and then tell me if after all the effect of the studio upon him is not remarkable - Especially look at the head of the little Rosie ... & think of what he had been about, & then tell me if you dreamed such work could have been done by him?' 6

Comments

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts website comments:

'He created this beautiful image, one of a series of tonal portraits challenging the sentimentality of Victorian portrayals of children, near the end of his career ... the portrait of eight-year-old Rosie Randall, daughter of the town’s mayor, was not a commission but one of a small group of studies Whistler undertook as a tribute to the children he called “the little Lyme Regis maidens.” Whistler portrays Rosie gazing directly at the viewer, nervously clasping her hands. She wears a red pinafore over a black dress and emerges from a dark background. The artist applied thin layers of paint to create this soft, diffuse likeness, which eloquently captures the innocence and vulnerability of childhood.' 7

Notes:

1: D. C Thomson to Whistler, 2 November 1895, GUW #05827.

2: [28 June 1896], GUW #09761.

3: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 43).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 449).

5: Note by Miss R. Birnie Philip, GUL Whistler BP III B/9.

6: J. McN. Whistler to B. Whistler, [10 November 1895], GUW #06635.

7: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, website at http://www.mfa.org.

Last updated: 4th June 2021 by Margaret