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

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Blue and Silver: Boat Entering Pourville


Only two titles have been suggested:

  • 'Blue & Silver - The incoming steamer' (1900, Whistler). 1
  • 'Blue and Silver – Boat entering Pourville' (1901, Goupil). 2
  • 'Blue and Silver: Boat entering Pourville' (1980, YMSM). 3

The preferred title, 'Blue and Silver: Boat entering Pourville', is based on that in the Goupil show, with punctuation regularised to conform with other titles.


                    Blue and Silver: Boat Entering Pourville, Freer Gallery of Art
Blue and Silver: Boat Entering Pourville, Freer Gallery of Art

A beach scene in horizontal format. In the foreground is a grey beach, with a few figures at the water's edge at left and in the centre and a crowd of people at right. A steamer is seen in the distance at right, on a calm pale blue sea, under a grey sky.


Pourville-sur-Mer, near Dieppe, on the coast of France in Normandy. It had developed from a fishing village to be a popular holiday destination. Artists such as Claude Oscar Monet (1840-1926) worked there from the 1880s on. It was easily reached by the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe as well as from Paris.

Whistler was convalescing with his in-laws, the Birnie Philips, at the Pavillon Madeleine, Pourville-sur-Mer, in August 1899. He wrote in the autumn to the artist Albert Ludovici, Jr (1852-1932):

'September & October are clearly the months for the sea -

I am just beginning to understanding the principle of these things - You know how I always reduce things to principles! ...

I could not help thinking of your two French painters who thought they had something new in Renoir! - and who looked with contempt upon le "vieux tableau"! -

"Plein air" indeed! - I should like to show you one or two little panels!' 4

The reference to Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) is not entirely clear, but may refer to such vivid seascapes as Renoir's Sea and cliffs (ca 1885, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975.1.200). Whistler had a poor opinion of Renoir's work: in 1891 he had described those on exhibition at Durand-Ruel's as 'simply childish.' 5


1: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, 17 May 1900, GUW #09602.

2: Spring Exhibition, Goupil Gallery, London, 1901 (cat. no. 34).

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 523).

4: [September/ October 1899], GUW #08083.

5: J. Whistler to B. Whistler, [11 June 1891], GUW #06591. See also A. J. Eddy to Whistler, 15 September [1894], GUW #01015.

Last updated: 13th November 2020 by Margaret