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

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Vert et or: Le Raconteur

Titles

Variations on the title have been suggested, as follows:

  • 'La Raconteur' (1903, C. L. Freer). 1
  • ' "Vert et Or" (le Raconteur)' (1904, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts). 2
  • 'Green and Gold: – Tom' (1904, R. Birnie Philip). 3
  • 'Green and Gold. Tom' (1904, J. Connell). 4
  • 'Vert et or: Le Raconteur' (1980, YMSM). 5
  • 'Vert et Or: Le Raconteur (Green and Gold: The Storyteller)' (2019, Freer Gallery of Art). 6

'Vert et or: Le Raconteur', the preferred title, is based on the 1904 exhibition title, with punctuation regularised.

Description


                    Vert et or: Le Raconteur, Freer Gallery of Art
Vert et or: Le Raconteur, Freer Gallery of Art

A half-length portrait of a boy, in vertical format. His face is in three-quarter view to right, and he smiles slightly as he looks at the viewer; his brown hair is parted in the centre. He wears a black cloak over a grey jacket and scarf, and a shirt buttoned to the neck, but no collar. His left hand holds on to the edge of his cloak at right.

Sitter

When C. L. Freer recorded seeing 'Le Raconteur' in Whistler's studio in 1903, he identified the boy as the brother of the two models who sat for The Boy in a Cloak [YMSM 512] and The Little Faustina [YMSM 510]. His record of the portraits presumably reflects information given by the artist, and is as follows:

' "Le Raconteur" / The boy with mischievous face - hand and thumb / Brother of the boy with cloak

"Comment tu t'appelle"/ The marvellous little girl full face - eyes looking into futurity - her two little hands folded and at rest in her lap -/ Sister of the boy in cloak and of the Raconteur

Asked to be held for C L F

Mr George Vanderbilt to have the little boy with fine eyes . brother ... of the Raconteur - And the same boy painted in the "Boy in the cloak" ' 7

Freer did indeed buy the 'Raconteur' (in 1905) and The Little Faustina [YMSM 510] (in 1909). George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) on the other hand did not buy one of these family portraits. In 1906 Freer wrote to William Herbert Bixby (1849-1928) 'I believe Whistler really was the most successful of all known painters of children.' 8

The name 'Tom' was also ascribed, probably incorrectly, to the sitter for Girl in Black [YMSM 470] in 1910.

Notes:

1: [1903], Diaries, Bk 13, Freer Gallery Archives.

2: Ouvrages de Peintures, Sculpture, Dessin, Gravure, Architecture et Objets d'Art, 14th exhibition, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1904 (cat. no. 1317).

3: 14 May 1904, GUL Whistler BP II Ledger a, p. 64.

4: Etchings and Lithographs by James McNeill Whistler, James Connell & Sons, Glasgow, [1904] (cat. no. 73A).

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 513).

6: Website at https://asia.si.edu/object/F1905.235a-b.

7: [1903], Diaries, Bk 13, Freer Gallery Archives.

8: 10 January 1906, Freer Gallery of Art Archives, quoted on FGA website.

Last updated: 25th October 2020 by Margaret