The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 061
Symphony in White, No. 3

Symphony in White, No. 3

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1865-1867
Collection: Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Accession Number: 39.24
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 52.0 x 76.5 cm (20 1/2 x 30 1/8")
Signature: 'Whistler.' (see below)
Inscription: 'Symphony in White. No. III. - Whistler. 1867 - ' (the figure 7 being written over a 5)
Frame: Flat Whistler, pattern and butterfly under gilding, ca 1873/1892 [18.4 cm]

Date

Symphony in White, No. 3 was originally signed and dated 1865, the date being later altered to 1867. 1 It may then have been worked on occasionally until 1873.

1865: It was sketched (Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3' m0323) and described by Whistler in a letter to Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) on 16 August 1865 while it was being painted:

Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3', Library of Congress
Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3', Library of Congress

'... c'est surtout la composition qui m'occupe voici ou j'en suis

fond gris très fin [sketch:] canapé blanc / bleu clair tres fin

[on left of sketch:] Jo en robe de toile très blanc, la même robe que la fille blanche d'autrefois - cette figure est tout ce que j'ai fait de plus pur - tête charmante. Le corps, les jambes, etc., se voient parfaitement à travers la robe

[on right of sketch:] tête blonde, robe de soie blanche jaunatre - ce que l'on appelle foulard - quelque fleurs pourpre foncé tombées par terre près la robe jaunâtre.' 2

[Translation:] '... it is above all the composition that occupies me this is where I have got to

very delicate grey background / [sketch:] white couch / very delicate light blue

[on left of sketch:] Jo in a very white linen dress, the same dress as the white girl earlier - the figure is the purest I have done - charming head. The body, legs, etc., can be seen perfectly through the dress

[on right of sketch:] fair hair, yellowish white silk dress - what is known as foulard - some dark purple flowers on the ground next to the yellowish dress.'

It is possible that Whistler borrowed a 'Chinese blue and white [rug]' from Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) to include in this picture. 3

In November 1865 Whistler's mother Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881) wrote to him, 'I hope you may add to the Sofa as many beautiful touches as you did to the little white girl & that Houth [sic] may be so charmed he may add more of Whistlers to his own collection.' 4 This suggests that Louis Huth (1821-1905) bought it before it was completed.

1866: On 17 January, shortly before he left for Valparaiso, Whistler begged the model, Emelie Eyr Jones (b. 1850), to 'sit again for a few days', possibly for this painting, as 'the picture is wanted at once.' 5

H. E. Degas, Sketch after Symphony in White, No. 3, Notebook 20, Musée du Louvre RF5634, p. 17
H. E. Degas, Sketch after Symphony in White, No. 3, Notebook 20, Musée du Louvre RF5634, p. 17

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) made a rough sketch of the composition in a notebook he is presumed to have used between 1864 and 1867. 6

1867: Whistler wrote to the Belgian artist Alfred Émile-Léopold Stevens (1823-1906):

'Mon frère raporte avec lui le petit tableau - je serai bien aise de le savoir dans le salon du Club ... j'aimerai bien avoir de vous un petit mot pour me dire si il vous plait - Vous verrez bien que j'ai encore quelques petites choses à faire pour entièrement l'achever - les mains ne sont qu'indiquées - je toucherai aussi plus tard aux fleurs -

Mais comme tableau, ensemble, etc., c'est assez pour être vu par les artistes.' 7

Translation: 'My brother is bringing the little painting with him. I would be very glad to know that it was in the salon of the Club. ... I would very much like to have a little word from you to tell me if you like it. You will clearly see that I still have little things to do to complete it altogether - the hands are only sketched in - I shall also touch up the flowers later.

But as a painting, composition, etc., it's enough for it to be seen by artists.'

This probably refers to Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, and implies that Whistler was still working on it. A comparison of the present state of the oil with an early photograph (Lucas Collection, Baltimore) taken before the date was changed in 1867, shows several minor alterations, which could date from early 1867, before the oil was exhibited at the RA.

Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts

On 31 March William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) called in to see what Whistler intended to send to the Academy: 'he means to send Symphony in White No. 3 (heretofore named The Two Little White Girls).' 8 It was exhibited at the 99th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1867 (cat. no. 233) as 'Symphony in White No. 3'.

1868: In February and March 1868 one of the models, either Emilie ('Millie') Jones or her sister Augusta Maria Jones (fl. 1865), was still posing for Whistler, possibly for this oil, at the studio of Frederick Jameson (1839-1916) at 62 Great Russell Street, London. 9 Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886) was probably also posing at that time.

1873: In January Whistler told Louis Huth that the 'two figures' painting was one of two requiring further work that he would undertake 'directly the Academy work is over - and you can see as they progress whether you like to keep them for yourself.' 10 It was exhibited in the Sixth Exhibition of the Society of French Artists [Summer Exhibition], Deschamps Gallery, London, 1873 (cat. no. 112).

Images

Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph by Henry Dixon & Son, 1915, GUL WPP
Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph by Henry Dixon & Son, 1915, GUL WPP

Symphony in White, No. 3, verso
Symphony in White, No. 3, verso

Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph, Goupil Album, 1892; GUL Whistler PH5/2
Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph, Goupil Album, 1892; GUL Whistler PH5/2

Symphony in White, No. 3, frame
Symphony in White, No. 3, frame

Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3', Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY
Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3', Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY

Sketch of 'Symphony in White, No. 3', Library of Congress
Sketch of 'Symphony in White, No. 3', Library of Congress

Study of a draped reclining woman, The Hunterian
Study of a draped reclining woman, The Hunterian

Draped figure seated, holding a fan, The Hunterian
Draped figure seated, holding a fan, The Hunterian

H. E. Degas, Sketch after Symphony in White, No. 3, Notebook 20, Musée du Louvre RF5634, p. 17
H. E. Degas, Sketch after Symphony in White, No. 3, Notebook 20, Musée du Louvre RF5634, p. 17

Albert Moore, sketch after Portrait of a girl, probably Milly Jones, Sotheby's 2016
Albert Moore, sketch after Portrait of a girl, probably Milly Jones, Sotheby's 2016

Frederick Sandys,  Gentle Spring, 1865, Ashmolean Museum
Frederick Sandys, Gentle Spring, 1865, Ashmolean Museum

In 1889, Whistler attempted to obtain suitable reproductions of his work for an article by Theodore Child (1846-1892). He suggested that Adolphe Braun (1812-1877) 'ought to do the photograph almost the size of the picture original - as the picture is not too large. Perhaps Huth may even lend the picture ... which would be important, as the hair and gold flesh color photographs too darkly, unless Braun can manage.' 11

In 1895 Whistler gave James Jebusa Shannon (1862-1923) permission to reproduce a photograph of Symphony in White, No. 3 y061 taken at the time of the 1892 Goupil exhibition, but complained that 'the hair of the girl on the sofa is red - or copper coloured ... and the face is very fair - though golden. In the photograph all this is dark - if not black.' 12

Subject

Titles

One principle title is known, but there were some variations:

The preferred title is 'Symphony in White, No. 3'. It was the first of Whistler's paintings to be exhibited with a musical title, although Paul Mantz (1821-1895) had called Whistler's first 'White Girl' a 'Symphonie du blanc' in 1863 (see Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl y038). 19 The Pennells point out that this may have been a factor that influenced Whistler in his choice of titles for the third in the series. 20 The first two were renamed later to fit into the sequence (see Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl y038, Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052).

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894), critic of the Saturday Review, complained, when Symphony in White, No. 3 was first exhibited in 1867, that it was 'not precisely a symphony in white', since yellow, brown, blue, red and green also appeared. 21 Whistler's celebrated reply was published in 1887 and again in 1890 and there dated 'Chelsea, June 1867'. The 1887 version reads:

'And does he then, in his astounding consequence, believe that a symphony in F contains no other note, but shall be a continued repetition of F, F, F?.... Fool!' 22

Although dated 1867 it was probably written later, and most likely in 1878 when it appeared, with variations, written in Whistler's hand in the margin of a press cutting book, and dated 'Nov. 1878'. 23

Description

Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts

A figure composition in horizontal format. A straight backed sofa covered in white sits on a pale blue patterned carpet. At left, a young woman with red hair sits on the sofa, leaning on her right arm, with her left arm stretched along the back of the sofa. At right, another red-haired woman sits on the floor, in profile to left, with her right arm stretched out along the sofa and her left arm relaxed on her knees, with a fan leaning against her knee. There are blossoms in the lower right corner.

The structure of the sofa, and its relationship to the room and to the wall panel at right, is not at all clear. Exactly where the sofa back ends at left is unknown, because it is concealed by the model, but the seat appears to extend further to left than the (invisible) back of the sofa.

Sitter

Two models posed for this painting. The woman on the sofa was Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886) and the other sitter was probably Emelie Eyr Jones (b. 1850), who married Stuart Robson (1836-1903) (1836-1903) in 1870. Her sister Augusta also posed for Whistler.

In 1865 Whistler described the figure of Hiffernan as 'tout ce que j'ai fait de plus pur - tête charmante. Le corps, les jambes, etc., se voient parfaitement à travers la robe' and he described the other model as 'tête blonde, robe de soie blanche jaunatre.' 24 Thirty years later he recalled Hiffernan's hair as 'red - or copper coloured - and full of light - and the face is very fair - though golden.' 25

The Pennells suggested that in the intervals of painting Symphony in White, No. 3 y061 Whistler painted The Artist's Studio from the same two models. 26 It is possible that sittings for Symphony in White, No. 3 overlapped with those for The Artist's Studio and Whistler in his Studio y063.

Albert Moore, sketch after Portrait of a girl, probably Milly Jones, Sotheby's, 2016
Albert Moore, sketch after Portrait of a girl, probably Milly Jones, Sotheby's, 2016

Milly Jones also sat for other artists including Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893). A drawing after Moore, reproduced above, shows similar features to Whistler's model. It may be a study for the head of one of the girls in A Musician of 1865-1866 (Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven). 27 She also posed nude for Moore's painting Azaleas (1867, Victoria & Albert Museum).

Frederick Sandys,  Gentle Spring, 1863-65, Ashmolean Museum
Frederick Sandys, Gentle Spring, 1863-65, Ashmolean Museum

Other works for which she posed include a chalk drawing, Study for head of Miss Milly Jones, by Edward John Poynter (1836-1919) (Bonham's, 2 March 2016, lot 69) and several paintings by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904): Gentle Spring (1863-1965, Ashmolean Museum, reproduced above), May Margaret (1865-1866, Delaware Art Museum), Berenice, Queen of Egypt (1867, Leighton House Museum), and Valkyrie (1868, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead).

Technique

Composition

Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3', Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute
Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3', Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute

There is a pencil and crayon drawing for the composition, r.: Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3'; v.: Draped figures m0322, showing both figures seated on the sofa with their heads close together on the right.

Study of a draped reclining woman, The Hunterian
Study of a draped reclining woman, The Hunterian

Draped figure seated, holding a fan, The Hunterian
Draped figure seated, holding a fan, The Hunterian

Other drawings suggest Whistler was exploring various poses with seated figures in semi-classical robes. These include Study of a draped reclining woman m0326 and Draped figure seated, holding a fan m0327.

Sketch of 'Symphony in White, No. 3', Library of Congress
Sketch of 'Symphony in White, No. 3', Library of Congress

By the time Whistler wrote to Fantin-Latour in August 1865, and sent him a drawing, Sketch of 'Symphony in White No. 3' m0323, the composition had been worked out. He was particularly pleased with the relationship of the arms of the two women to each other and to the back of the sofa, 'Comment trouve la ligne du haut? n'est ce pas bien - et puis l'arrangement de deux bras sur le canapé.' 28 Curiously, some perceived deficiency in the painting of the arms was criticised by an otherwise complimentary art critic in 1867, who considered the figures 'badly drawn.' 29

Jo wore the dress she had worn for 'la fille blanche d'autrefois' - Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl y038 or Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052. Whistler told Fantin that 'quelque fleurs pourpre foncé tombées par terre près la robe jaunâtre' and the carpet was a 'bleu clair tres fin.' 30 Eventually the carpet was subdued to a blue grey, while the azaleas on the right are white, although among them are two sprays of Dutchman's Breeches touched with the palest of purple.

A comparison of the present state of the painting with an early photograph taken 1865/1867, before the date was changed (Lucas Collection, Baltimore), shows several minor alterations, in particular to the drapery behind Milly and to the flowers on the right. It is not known when these alterations were made, but they probably date from early 1867, before the painting was exhibited at the RA.

As several writers pointed out (from 1867 onwards), in Symphony in White, No. 3 y061 Whistler's subject matter and technique began to resemble that of Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893). 31 Moore and Whistler met in 1865. Their mutual admiration resulted in a series of paintings in which it would be very difficult indeed to say who influenced whom. They adopted similar subjects, technique, titles and monograms (see Study of a Female Figure y081, Symphony in Blue and Pink y086, The Three Girls y088, Tanagra y092). The painting Moore exhibited at the RA in 1865 (cat. no. 586), The Marble Seat, could have been the first inspiration for Symphony in White, No. 3 y061. 32 Moore's The Musicians (Yale Center for British Art) was also exhibited in the RA in 1867 (cat. no. 235). 33 On the right are two listening figures, which relate closely to Whistler's original drawing for Symphony in White, No. 3 y061. Moore's and Whistler's paintings were hung close together and were compared by art journalists of the time including the art critic of the London Daily News:

'Mr. A. Moore is another of the idealistic painters who deserves mention in connexion with the subject, for his little picture called "The Musicians" (236) – group of figures in classic dresses playing instruments – painted in a delicate key of colour scarcely deeper in tint than that of a cameo. Mr. Whistler, too, in what he calls "A symphony in white, No. 3" (233), furnishes us with another instance of non-consent to the general fashion of painting highly-coloured pictures. Of course these painters are denying themselves a great deal when they limit their palette in this way ; and we must say that it is scarcely worth while to do this for the sake of accomplishing a few dainty gradations of pearly tints. It is some years now since Mr. Whistler exhibited his "Woman in White" – a somewhat claptrap title to assume for his picture from a literary celebrity – and still we find him harping on on the same single string.' 34

Likewise the 'Saunterer in Society' reviewing the exhibition in Fun, commented:

'Whistler seems to have been rather cruelly treated. His "Symphony in White; No. III." is evidently part of a harmonious series, which cannot be properly judged by itself, though it is a fine tour de force. A. Moore, who paints in a somewhat similar key, exhibits an admirable picture entitled "Musicians," extremely delicate in colour and clever in drawing.' 35

As Prettejohn comments, in 1867 it was clear that Frederick Leighton (1830-1896), Moore, and Whistler shared similar preoccupations with visual rhythms and music making: Leighton's Spanish Dancing Girl, Moore's The Musicians and Whistler's Symphony in White, No. 3, 'experiment with similar compositional type', with an asymmetrical grouping of figures dressed in semi-classical robes 'arranged on a bench in a shallow foreground space ... All three are ambiguous in period location.' 36

Technique

Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Symphony in White, No. 3, Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Symphony in White, No. 3, verso
Symphony in White, No. 3, verso

Painted with fairly thin paint, of a creamy consistency, with expressive, flowing brushstrokes. The brushstrokes on the skirt are laid over one another, the edges of each stroke still showing the underlying brushwork. The modelling of the legs and dress is shown convincingly, with the weight of the body being clearly conveyed. The face of the woman at left was painted with much smaller, pointed sable brushes, in careful but expressive brushstrokes; the warm colours of the skin contrast with her bright blue eyes. The model at right is dressed in white of a more yellow shade, slightly browned towards the lower edge.

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), writing it must be said in response to the adoring tone of the Pennells' 1908 biography of Whistler, was extremely critical of Whistler's technique in this painting:

'A bad picture … badly composed, badly drawn, badly painted … The folds of the drapery are expressed by ribbons of paint in the direction of the folds themselves, with hard edges to them. Only painters can quite understand the depth of infamy confessed in this last description. It means that the drapery is no longer painted, but intended.' 37 And yet, he added, 'Something in the expression of the eyes of the girl on the sofa has preserved for us a hint of the young man's admiration.' 38

Conservation History

It was cleaned and varnished without the owner's approval, before being exhibited at Goupil's in 1892; Huth refused outright to pay any costs, 'you should defray any expense you may have deemed necessary for the rendering of your Exhibition more attractive, I declined to pay it, and I must adhere to my decision.' 39 The painting, according to Whistler, had been returned 'through my care, in a state of perfection - beautiful to look upon.' 40

Frame

Symphony in White, No. 3, frame
Symphony in White, No. 3, frame

1865: The original frame has not been located.

1870s: Flat Whistler frame with painted Maltese Cross Pattern, still visible under the gilding, dating from ca 1871/1873. The original decoration painted on the frame dates from the early 1870s, perhaps from the 1873 exhibition. [FD] 33 7/8 x 44" (86.0 x 111.7 cm), [MW] 7 ¼" (18.4 cm). 41

1892: Professor McLaren Young thought this decoration might have been gilded over at the time of the Goupil exhibition. The frame was abraded during transport back from the Goupil show and may have been repaired at that time. 42

History

Provenance

Louis Huth had bought 'the Sofa' by 25 November 1865, before it was completed. 43 It is not at all clear when it was completed. In 1873, Whistler told Louis Huth that the 'two figures' painting would cost 'at least 8 hundred or a thousand' and was one 'I intend now to take up directly the Academy work is over - and you can see as they progress whether you like to keep them for yourself.' 44 Huth agreed on 1 February 1873 that he would 'postpone my final decision in regard to them until they are further advanced.' 45 However, it is not entirely clear which picture he meant.

On 21 December 1915 Ricketts (quoted by Lewis) noted that Davis had been offered £30,000 for this painting, which he had originally bought for about £2000 'reluctantly on our suggestion'; in 1939 it fetched 3300 gns at auction. 46

Exhibitions

1865: Martinet.

Whistler wrote cryptically to Fantin-Latour, 'J'ai fait encore un petit tableau Japonais qui est ravissant! - Je l'enverrai chez Martinet avec celui de Huth.' 47 However, since it is not known when Louis Huth (1821-1905) bought Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, it is not certain that this indicated the intention of sending the picture to be exhibited in Paris; certainly the other painting mentioned, Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen y060 went to the Royal Academy in 1865 (cat. no. 90).

1867: Paris.

Whistler wrote to the Belgian artist Alfred Émile-Léopold Stevens (1823-1906), probably in 1867:

'Mon frère raporte avec lui le petit tableau - je serai bien aise de le savoir dans le salon du Club - Si vous avez le temps j'aimerai bien avoir de vous un petit mot pour me dire si il vous plait … comme tableau, ensemble, etc., c'est assez pour être vu par les artistes.' 48 Translation: 'My brother is bringing the little painting with him. I would be very glad to know that it was in the salon of the Club. If you have time I would very much like to have a little word from you to tell me if you like it ... as a painting, composition, etc., it's enough for it to be seen by artists.'

Since two of Whistler's 'Symphonies in White' Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl y038, Symphony in White, No. 3 y061) were in Paris in 1867 it is not entirely clear to which Fantin-Latour was referring when he wrote to Whistler on 12 February 1867, but it was probably Symphony in White, No. 3 y061:

'Ton tableau ... m a plu enormément. c'est bien etrange, je ne m'en doutais pas de son aspect. quand le matin je suis entrer [sic] chez ton frère j'ai fait un Ah!. qu'il est bien et original la tête de la femme en blanc est la meilleure tête que je t'ai jamais vu faire. ma critique est que c'est un peu nuage, c'est comme un rêve l'aspect général du tableau, mais ce n'est pas une critique serieuse, c'est evident que c'est ta personnalité devant la mienne qui est choquée, l'opinion des autres. Manet ne l'a pas vu mais il m'a dit que Stevens le trouvait très bien, et que Tissot est comme un fou de ce tableau il en sautait de joie - attends toi donc de la part de ces 2 messieurs a des imitations. il parait que tu n'as pas été exposé parce que il fallait être invité par le Comité ... Stevens m a dit quil [sic] fallait pour être du club avoir un autre parrain et que quand tu serais a Paris il faudrait aller voir un membre du club. Puis il a dit ensuite a ton frère qu'il fallait des mois de séjour a Paris en somme il me semble que ... Stevens ne t'a pas été très utile.' 49

Translation: 'Your picture ... gave me enormous pleasure, it is really strange, I had no doubt about its appearance. in the morning when I went to your brother's I said Ah!. it is so good and original the head of the woman in white is the best head I have ever seen you do, my criticism is that it is a little cloud-like, the general appearance of the picture is like a dream, but this is not a serious criticism, it is evident that it is your personality meeting mine which struck me, other people's opinions. Manet has not seen it but he told me that Stevens thought it very good, and Tissot is mad over the picture he was jumping for joy about it - so expect imitations from these 2 gentlemen. it appears that you were not exhibited because you had to be invited by the Committee ... Stevens told me that to be a member of the club you need another sponsor and that when you come to Paris you would have to meet a member of the club. Then he told your brother afterwards that you will need to stay in Paris for several months altogether ... Stevens has not been very useful.'

So, the painting was not exhibited at the 'Club', but it was admired by Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) and Stevens.

1867: Royal Academy.

Instead, Symphony in White, No. 3 y061 went to the Royal Academy, where, said Whistler, 'My pictures are pretty well hung ... only on a crowded day cannot be seen because of the crinolines.' 50 It seems from the reviews that Whistler's pictures and titles aroused both praise and irritation. The Chronicle, in a long press cutting kept by Whistler, wrote:

'Mr. Whistler’s pictures ... like their predecessors of some years past, look odd and even irritating to most people, chiefly for two reasons : – First, that most people are devoid of this sense of intrinsic art, and proportionately dull to the signs of it; and, second, that the pictures are painted in a key very different from that of the works which surround them, and with a neglect or rejection of many of those executive qualities which are commonly – and in some instances rightly – understood to go to professional competence and presentableness. Admitting that Mr. Whistler does not grapple with all the difficulties which an artist is fairly expected to quell, and that his pictures form a dangerous precedent, we must still acknowledge, and that not on compulsion but with alacrity and delight, the supreme artistic charm of his work; its exquisite refinement and felicity even amid some degree of offhandedness, and its implication of many a subtlety of art, caught with an almost evanescent nicety, yet in a truly final and triumphant manner. Mr. Whistler's figure picture of the present year is named "Symphony in White, No. 3," evidently indicating that both this and two previous works, which will dwell in many memories, were painted partly as studies of harmony in various tinges and affinities of white. From that point of view the picture is simply delicious, and hardly to be outdone.' 51

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) wrote in the Saturday Review:

'Mr Whistler is anything but a robust and balanced genius. No mental force was ever more curiously irregular and capricious in its application than his, but the gifts that he has are truly artistic gifts ... in the "Symphony in White, No. III" there are many dainty varieties of tint, but it is not precisely a symphony in white.' 52

Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907) commented on the title, 'which, by borrowing a musical phrase, doubtless casts reflected light upon former studies or "symphonies" of the same kind' and described it as 'an exquisite chromatic study.' 53

1873: Dudley Gallery.

A review of the Dudley show from the London Standard sent to Whistler in 1873 described it as '"Symphony in White" ... pale picture of two graceful, indolent girls in white, in a white chamber, where white blossoms come clustering in at the window.' 54

1884: Brussels.

Whistler asked Charles William Deschamps (1848-1908) to help organise his exhibits for Brussels:

'I want you to undertake and carry out thoroughly the sending, for me, of some pictures to Brussels - You doubtless know that there is to be an Exposition there almost immediately after the manner of the one in the Rue de Sèze - To this I have been invited as "representing English Painting!"

... will you call on Mr Huth and persuade him for me to lend the little Symphony in White No. 3 ... and explain my anxiety that this work should be seen abroad where it would be so well understood - also say that the Exhibition only lasts a month and he would have back his picture on the first days of March.' 55

For the exhibition it was insured for 500 guineas at the owner's request, and Whistler suggested his exhibits would be improved by being 'well rubbed up and polished' and even re-varnished. 56

1892: Goupil Gallery.

Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph, Goupil Album, 1892; GUL Whistler PH5/2
Symphony in White, No. 3, photograph, Goupil Album, 1892; GUL Whistler PH5/2

Louis Huth at first refused to lend the painting. Whistler wrote that he only had 'temporary charge of it', and elaborated on the relationship between artist and patron: 'effectively the picture is only entrusted to him, and is in reality the property of the whole world - or rather of the few other artists who, in future generations, shall require it of his stewardship.' 57 Eventually Huth agreed to lend, and to have 'his picture overhauled' and it was cleaned and varnished for the show, and photographed for the Goupil Album. 58 In the catalogue designed by Whistler, he selected several earlier reviews including the notorious one by Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) and ending with one from John Ruskin (1819-1900), as follows:

' "It is not precisely a symphony in white – one lady has a yellowish dress and brown hair and a bit of blue ribbon, the other has a red fan, and there are flowers and green leaves. There is a girl in white on a white sofa, but even this girl has reddish hair; and of course there is the flesh colour of the complexions." P. G. Hamerton, "Saturday Review."

"Mr. Whistler appears as eccentrically as ever. ... Art is not served by freaks of resentment. ... We hold him deeply to blame that these figures are badly drawn.

"... 'Taste,' which is mind working in Art, would, even if it could at all conceive them, utterly reject the vulgarities of Mr. Whistler with regard to form, and never be content with what suffices him in composition." – Athenæum.

"Painting, or art generally, as such, with all its technicalities, difficulties, and particular ends, is nothing but a noble and expressive language, invaluable as the vehicle of thought, but by itself nothing." John Ruskin, Esq., Art Professor, "Modern Painters." ' 59

Whistler immediately wanted to borrow the painting for a forthcoming exhibition in Paris, but Huth would not lend the picture again, writing, 'During the few remaining years left to me I mean to be in undisturbed possession of my pictures.' 60 Despite this, Whistler put it – in vain – on his wish list for World's Columbian Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1893. 61

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

COLLECTION:

EXHIBITION:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 61).

2: 16 August [1865], GUW #11477.

3: [1864/1865], GUW #09393; but see La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050.

4: A. M. Whistler to Whistler, 25 November [1865], GUW #06526.

5: 17 January [1866], GUW #09171.

6: Notebook 20 (Louvre RF5634, p. 17). Reff 1976a [more], repr.

7: [13/20 February 1867], GUW #08145.

8: Spencer 1989 [more], p. 79.

9: Whistler to 'Miss Jones', [February 1868/May 1869], GUW #09173, and [February 1868/1869], GUW #09175.

10: [31 January 1873], GUW #02242.

11: Whistler to Child, [October/November 1889], GUW #09264: the picture was not reproduced in the article, Child 1889 [more].

12: [July] 1895, GUW #09424; Lewis, Cecil (ed.), Self Portrait taken from the Letters and Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A., London, 1939.

13: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 25 November [1865], GUW #06526.

14: 31 March 1867, quoted in Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 143-44.

15: 99th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1867 (cat. no. 233).

16: Whistler to O. Maus, [December 1883], GUW #07910.

17: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 2).

18: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 61).

19: Mantz 1863 C [more].

20: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 144.

21: Anon., 'Pictures of the Year: IX,' The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, vol. 23, no. 605, 1 June 1867, pp. 690-91.

22: Whistler 1887 [more].Dowdeswell 1887 [more]; Whistler 1890 [more], p. 45.

23: GUL Whistler PC1, p. 3.

24: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 16 August [1865], GUW #11477.

25: Whistler to J. J. Shannon, [July] 1895, GUW #09424; Lewis, Cecil (ed.), Self Portrait taken from the Letters and Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A., London, 1939, pp. 21, 248.

26: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 185.

27: Charcoal on brown paper, 34.5 by 37 cm, Sotheby's, London, 15 December 2016 (lot 4).

28: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 16 August [1865], GUW #11477.

29: Unidentified press cutting, [May/June 1867], GUL Whistler PC1, p. 55.

30: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 16 August [1865], op. cit.

31: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 145: 'Some see, at this period, the influence of Albert Moore, which, if it existed at all, was as ephemeral and superficial as Rossetti's. It could be argued with more truth that Whistler influenced Albert Moore, who, for at least two pictures, Harmony of Orange and Pale Yellow, Variation of Blue and Gold, borrowed Whistler's titles.'

32: The Marble Seat, repr. Baldry 1894 [more], f.p. 28; Sotheby's, New York, 5 May 2911 (lot 76). See also Asleson, Robyn, Albert Moore, London, 2000, pp. 38, 77, 79-81, 85, 89, 92, 189, 196, repr. p. 78A; Staley, Allen, The New Painting of the 1860s, Between the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement, New Haven and London, 2011, pp. 101, 127-28, 129-30, 132, 146, 171, 173, 329, repr. p. 127, pl. 115.

33: Coll. R. L. Isaacson, New York; repr. Baldry 1894 [more], f.p. 36.

34: 11 June 1867, GUL Whistler PC1, p. 13.

35: 'Town Talk, By the Saunterer in Society', Fun, 18 May 1867, p. 100 (GUL Whistler PC 1, p. 35).

36: Prettejohn, Elizabeth, Beauty and Art : 1750-2000, Oxford, 2005, p. 142. See also Susan Casteras's review of same, 10 December 2008, online at http://www.caareviews.org.

37: Sickert 1908 B [more]; see W. Sickert 2000 [more], p. 185.

38: Ibid.

39: L. Huth to Whistler, 20 April 1892, GUW #02245.

40: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 4 February 1894, GUW #09715.

41: Dr S. L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017; see also Parkerson 2007 [more].

42: Huth to Whistler, GUW #02245.

43: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 25 November [1865], GUW #06526.

44: [31 January 1873], GUW #02242.

45: GUW #02243.

46: Lewis, Cecil (ed.), Self Portrait taken from the Letters and Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A., London, 1939, pp. 21, 248.

47: 'I have done another small Japanese picture which is delightful! - I shall send it to Martinet along with Huth's', [February/March 1865], GUW #08040.

48: [13/20 February 1867], GUW #08145.

49: 12 February 1867, GUW #01083.

50: Whistler to L. Ionides, [May/June 1867], GUW #10827.

51: Anon., 'The Royal Academy Exhibition. Second Notice', The Chronicle, 25 May 1867 (GUL Whistler PC1, p. 33).

52: Anon., 'Pictures of the Year: IX,' The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, vol. 23, no. 605, 1 June 1867, pp. 690-91.

53: Stephens, F. G., 'Fine Arts. Royal Academy', The Athenaeum, 18 May 1867.

54: GUL Whistler PC 1, p. 1.

55: [8 January 1884], GUW #07908.

56: Whistler to Deschamps, [11 January 1884] and [29 January 1884], GUW #07909 and #07913.

57: Draft, [February/March 1892], GUW #02244.

58: D. C. Thomson to Whistler, 2 March 1892, GUW #05693; Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 4 February 1894, GUW #09715.

59: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 2) reprinted in Whistler 1892 [more], pp. 298-99.

60: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [10 April 1892], GUW #08343; L. Huth to Whistler, 20 April 1892, GUW #02245.

61: Whistler to E. A. Abbey, GUW #03181.