Whistler's own title is not known for certain. The later title probably comes from his sister-in-law:
'The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe' is the generally accepted title.
A house front, painted in horizontal format. A cobbled street and narrow pavement are indicated in the foreground. To left of centre is a grey door with four small rectangular panes of glass above the door. At left is a window with white and pale green chequered shutters, and originally, in front of this, stood a woman in a black dress, and perhaps a child, but these have been partially painted over. On the other side of the door is a grey panel, possibly a shutter, and then a wide window with small panes, all tinted green. Below the windows the wall is painted a brownish mauve, with a dark square object, possibly a box or bucket, under the larger window at right.
Whistler was frequently in or passing through Dieppe, a busy port and ferry terminal, with lengthy stays in 1885, and in 1896-1898. He described it in 1896 as 'a lovely place.' 6 However, a few days later he complained: 'The work I have no success with! ... this is the last day - and on this day only do I find what I want both in picture and place in which to paint it.' 7
Alternatively, if the 'Dieppe' of the title is incorrect, The Priest's Lodging of the title suggests that it could be related to a lithograph drawn in Rouen in 1894, The Priest's House, Rouen c105, although this was not an image Whistler liked: when it was printed he called it 'a dull mealy tiresome thing, ... Please destroy it at once.' 8
Another (fairly remote) possibility is a subject hinted at in October 1899 when Whistler, writing from Paris, mentioned that painting in 'Cathedral corners' had made him ill:
'It really is an awful business this neuralgia! … & of course as usual I deserved what I brought upon myself! for I sat, and continued to sit for three of four days running in Cathedral corners … It was the only way of bringing back the panels - and now I have brought back a very beautifully developed form of neuralgia called Zona.' 9
But what cathedral corners?
1: The Hunterian files.
2: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 57).
3: Spencer, Robin, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1969 (cat. no. 54).
5: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 57); Young, A. McLaren, Glasgow University's Pictures, Colnaghi, London, 1973 (cat. no. 106).
Last updated: 2nd November 2020 by Margaret