The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 439
Portrait of Miss Marion Peck

Portrait of Miss Marion Peck

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1895-1900
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: unknown
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: unknown

Date

Portrait of Miss Marion Peck was started in 1895 and continued until at least 1900. 1

1895: It was commissioned by the sitter's mother, Annah Burrough Peck née Luther (1847-1900) (Mrs Harold Stanton Peck) of Chicago, for $2000 (£400) in March 1895. 2 Whistler told Mrs Peck his prices and added: 'it would be, for me, a rare delight to paint your daughter! … Seldom indeed has one the wonderful chance of daintiness and lovely colour combined!' 3 On 25 March the artist agreed to a price of £400, half to be paid in advance, and suggested the first sitting should be the following day, 'If the dress be ready, and you are able to bring Miss Peck tomorrow to the studio, ... we might begin to arrange the composition of the picture.' 4 On 20 April, he acknowledged receipt of £200. 5

John James Cowan (1846-1936) wrote that on 4 June 1895, in Paris, sittings for his portrait, Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan y402, were interrupted by the arrival of Miss Peck in 'book muslin rigged up for the occasion.' 6 Whistler complained to E. G. Kennedy (who was also waiting for the completion of his portrait) on 9 June 1895:

'I daresay we shall manage some morning soon - Though not before the departure of the Chicago beauty -

It is too absolutely devilish - but of late all these beautiful things that I undertake are interfered with and my elbow jogged by the people wanting to go off on such a steamer!

No masterpiece should be subjected to such nonsense.' 7

On 18 June he added, 'The Peck picture is perforce to be finished by Thursday.' 8 The picture was supposedly completed, and Whistler acknowledged receipt of a further £200 on 25 June 1895, promising to send the picture when dry. 9 He did not, however, send it to America.

1896: When the Pecks arrived in Europe and offered to come for sittings, Whistler replied that he was delighted at the chance 'to make perfect the work that is to hand down the little American Duchess!' 10 On May 12 Whistler wrote to the sitter that despite the death of his wife, he was prepared to continue sittings, as 'this particular picture was always one in which my wife took great pleasure.' 11 He asked Miss Peck to come to 8 Fitzroy Street, London, adding, 'The dress and slipper are as I told you ready for you - so that you will only have to bring your cloak and long gloves.' 12

On 12 November 1896 the New York Sun reported that Mrs Peck said her daughter had given Whistler over 90 sittings but he refused to send the portrait to Chicago.

1897: After the marriage of Miss Peck to William Richman Farquhar (1860-1952), sittings were continued in London in March and July, but were interrupted by Whistler's illness in October. 13 Whistler arranged to have the portrait photographed, and hoped to have it for the Salon in the following year. 14

1898: On 21 January Whistler wrote thanking Mrs Farquhar for her 'kindness - and sympathy - and charming courtesy in the studio.' 15 In April, Miss Birnie Philip told J. J. Cowan, 'Miss Peck's picture, you will be pleased to hear he at length considers rather beautiful! - which he thinks is admitting a lot.' 16

1899: On 1 September Whistler wrote to the sitter's husband, W. R. Farquhar, that he wished to return the 400 guineas to Mrs Farquhar because although 'Your wife's portrait has been for me an ideal picture with which I have hitherto never been able to satisfy myself', it needed another three weeks for 'the few sittings required for its perfection.' 17 Therefore, on 26 November, further sittings were proposed, to start on 6 December 1899, and Whistler agreed to show them the picture, writing, 'I suppose one cannot refuse anything to the "little American Princess"!' 18

1900: Sittings continued from January on, until Mrs Farquhar became pregnant in March. 19 Mrs Peck handed her rights in the portrait to W. R. Farquhar who made a final attempt in June 1900 to obtain the portrait or the money, plus some recompense for the expenses incurred. 20 The 'stately cloak of Ermine' was cleaned and prepared for the 'little American Princess' by a Paris furrier and Whistler suggested further sittings. 21 Although he still hoped to complete it, and promised not to destroy it, Whistler finally returned her opera cloak and the money. 22 Mrs Farquhar's first child was born on 4 December 1900; the Farquhars finally accepted that the portrait would not be completed and withdrew the deposit of 10,521 francs on 27 June 1901. 23

1903: Whistler was still planning to complete the portrait up to three weeks before his death, but failed to do so: after his death the Farquhars tried unsuccessfully to obtain it from Whistler's estate. 24

Images

Portrait of Miss Marion Peck, Whereabouts unknown
Portrait of Miss Marion Peck, Whereabouts unknown

Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian
Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian

Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian
Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian

Subject

Titles

One title has been suggested:

Description

Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian
Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian

The Pennells described it as 'a large full length ... painted standing, in evening dress, with her long white green lined cloak thrown back ... the colour was a harmony in silver and green.' 26 Actually, it may not have been a large full length, for the original price, £400, is less than the price of 600 guineas Whistler received for a small full-length like Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan y402. Indeed Whistler defined the prices as follows:

'For a full length portrait - such as you saw going on in the studio - a thousand guineas -

For a smaller picture - such as the one Miss Peck remembers having seen at the Salon - the portrait of Mrs Sickert in blue - six hundred and fifty guineas -

This might be either a seated figure like Mrs Sickert - or standing full length - in which case the canvas would be of course of another shape & taller -

For a little portrait, like the small one you saw on the easel when you came in - a lady seated on a sofa, if you remember - is brown & gold - : three hundred guineas.' 27

On the other hand, Whistler did tell E. G. Kennedy on 27 April 1895, 'I am painting a portrait of a Chicago beauty - so that will be another full length for that "Lake front" city!' 28

Probably after the final sittings, on 7 April 1900, Whistler wrote to Mrs Farquhar:

'I always see you the same wonderful and beautiful Lady surrounded with the gold & mystery of the Venetian Gallery from which you have just stepped into my studio.' 29

Sitter

Marion Peck (Mrs W. R. Farquhar) (1872-1942). Marion, the eldest daughter of Harold Stanton Peck of the U.S. Navy, married William Richman Farquhar (1860-1952), third son of Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar of Aberdeenshire.

Technique

Composition

Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian
Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian

Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian
Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck, The Hunterian

It is known that the portrait was repainted many times and that the sitter posed over 90 times. Two drawings, Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck m1542 and Study for a portrait of Miss Marion Peck m1543, give some idea of the composition.

Technique

Unknown.

Conservation History

Unknown. Probably destroyed.

Frame

Unknown.

History

Provenance

One anecdote, almost certainly apocryphal, states that Whistler refused to send 'my masterpiece … to such a place as Chicago? Never!' 32

Exhibitions

It was not exhibited in Whistler's lifetime.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 439).

2: L. C. Kellogg to Whistler, 12 March [1895], GUW #02424.

3: Whistler to Mrs Peck, [10/20 March 1895], GUW #09358.

4: GUW #10706.

5: Whistler to Mrs Peck, GUW #10707.

6: Cowan 1933 [more], p. 170.

7: GUW #09727.

8: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, GUW #09728.

9: Whistler to Mrs Peck, 25 June 1895, GUW #10708.

10: Whistler to Mrs Peck, [7 April 1896], GUW #10705.

11: 12 May [1896], GUW #09359.

12: [13 May 1896], GUW #10658.

13: Whistler to Mrs Farquhar, [15 March 1897], GUW #10641. Whistler to E. Whibley,[8 July 1897], GUW #06316, Whistler to R. Birnie Philip, [30 October 1897], GUW #04724.

14: [October 1897], GUW #10659.

15: Whistler to Miss Peck, GUW #10642.

16: R. Birnie Philip to J. J. Cowan, 15 April 1898, GUW #04726.

17: GUW #02921.

18: GUW #10651.

19: Whistler to W. R. Farquhar, [25 January 1900], GUW #10654 and to Marion Farquhar, [20 March 1900], GUW #10648.

20: Farquhar to Whistler, [1 or 8 June 1900], GUW #01092.

21: Whistler to Farquhar, [June 1900], GUW #10637.

22: Whistler to Farquhar, 7 June 1900, GUW #01620. Farquhar to Whistler, 14 June [1900], GUW #01093. Farquhar to Whistler, [8, 15 or 22 July 1900], GUW #01095.

23: GUW #13682. R. Birnie Philip to Whistler, 27 January 1901, and his reply, [30 January 1901], GUW #04786 and #04788.

24: Letter from the sitter's daughter, Mrs J. Zonyk-Bohusz, to M. F. MacDonald, 5 August [1976/1978], GUL WPP.

25: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 439).

26: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, p. 157.

27: Whistler to Mrs Peck, [10/20 March 1895], GUW #09358.

28: GUW #09725.

29: GUW #10647.

30: L. C. Kellogg to Whistler, 12 March [1895], GUW #02424.

31: Whistler to Farquhar, 7 June 1900, GUW #01620. Farquhar to Whistler, 14 June [1900], GUW #01093. Farquhar to Whistler, [8, 15 or 22 July 1900], GUW #01095.

32: Hadley, Frank A., 'Whistler, the man, as told in anecdote', Brush and Pencil, Chicago, August 1903, vol. 12, pp. 334-59, at p. 342.