The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 462
Gold and Brown

Gold and Brown

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1896/1898
Collection: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: 1959.3.2
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 62.5 x 46.8 cm (24 5/8 x 18 7/16")
Signature: butterfly
Inscription: none
Frame: Grau-style, ca 1896

Date

Gold and Brown dates from between 1896 and 1898.

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

It was first exhibited at the Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Knightsbridge, London, 1898 (cat. no. 179) as 'Gold and Brown'.

Images

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, Glasgow University Library
Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, Glasgow University Library

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

Portrait of Whistler, Library of Congress
Portrait of Whistler, Library of Congress

Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress

Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress

Self-portrait, The Hunterian
Self-portrait, The Hunterian

Self-portrait, The Hunterian
Self-portrait, The Hunterian

H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, albumen print, 1884/1885, GUL Whistler PH1/108
H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, albumen print, 1884/1885, GUL Whistler PH1/108

H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, 1884/1895, albumen print, GUL Whistler PH1/228
H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, 1884/1895, albumen print, GUL Whistler PH1/228

Subject

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

'Gold and Brown' is the preferred title.

Description

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

A half-length portrait of the artist, in three-quarter view to right. His left hand, spread wide, is stretched forward at lower right; the right hand is barely visible at lower left. He wears a black jacket, against a dark brown background. The red ribbon of the Légion d'Honneur is visible in his button-hole. He has a moustache and wavy hair, with a white lock of hair visible above his forehead. The portrait is in vertical format.

Sitter

H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, 1884/1895, albumen print, GUL Whistler PH1/228
H. S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, 1884/1895, albumen print, GUL Whistler PH1/228

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) told Holker Welch Abbott (1858-1930) of the Boston Memorial Exhibition Committee that this was the portrait 'Whistler wanted to be remembered by.' 5

Whistler was awarded the cross of Chevalier de l'ordre National de la Légion d'honneur in 1889 and was promoted to Officier in 1892: the red ribbon in Whistler's button-hole is the mark of this distinction. 6

Technique

Composition

H.S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, albumen print, 1884/1885, GUL Whistler PH1/108
H.S. Mendelssohn, J. McN. Whistler, albumen print, 1884/1885, GUL Whistler PH1/108

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

Self-portrait, Hunterian
Self-portrait, Hunterian

Self-portrait, Hunterian
Self-portrait, Hunterian

Two less highly finished, but closely related, self-portraits were painted about 1896 in Whistler's Fitzroy Street studio (see Self-Portrait y460 and Self-Portrait y461, reproduced above).

Portrait of Whistler, Library of Congress
Portrait of Whistler, Library of Congress

In a pen and pencil drawing, Portrait of Whistler m1533, which Pennell thought was a drawing of Brown and Gold y440, Whistler is shown wearing an overcoat, with its collar turned up, over his shoulder. 7 It is not certain if this is a drawing for, or of the oil, or a self-portrait in its own right, since it does not precisely reflect the appearance of Whistler in Gold and Brown y462.

Technique

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

The canvas is approximately the size of the French 'toile de 12' (61 x 46cm) and may have been acquired in Paris.

The canvas is thinly painted, the surface of the background being so thin and soft that it looks as if it has been rubbed down. In fact it was common for Whistler at this time to rub down his paintings extensively as part of the painting process. The canvas is visible in some areas, such as above his left eye. Whistler's intense self-criticism is reflected in the dry, fluttering strokes with which he paints his face and bony hands.

Conservation History

Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, Glasgow university Library
Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, Glasgow university Library

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

Old photographs show very little change in the painting since 1898.

Frame

Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art
Gold and Brown, National Gallery of Art

Grau-style frame, dating from ca 1896. 8 88.9 x 73.7 x 10.2 cm (35 x 29 x 4").

History

Provenance

Exhibitions

Whistler was determined to prevent the artist Giovanni Boldini (1845-1931) from seeing a self-portrait – possibly Brown and Gold y440 or Gold and Brown y462 – because he planned to exhibit it at the ISSPG with Boldini's recent (1897) portrait of Whistler (now in the Brooklyn Museum). 9 However, Boldini refused to lend his portrait, so no comparison between them was possible at the time.

Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress

Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress

In 1898, Whistler made a sketch for Albert Ludovici, Jr (1852-1932) of the proposed hanging of his works, Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG m1539, adding, 'So if I send my portrait you will put it between the Rosa Corder and the Princess - leaving nice margin - and keeping all on line, more than in sketch.' 10

Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, GUL WPP file
Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, GUL WPP file

In the end Whistler exhibited The Thames in Ice y036, Grey and Silver: La Petite Souris y502, At the Piano y024, Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder y203, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050, Rose and Brown: The Philosopher y472, Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet y500, Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay y076, and, at the last minute, the painting under discussion, Gold and Brown y462.

The Morning Post commented not only on this painting, which was described as a 'sketch', but on the court case relating to Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden y408:

'Gold and Brown is the name given to a sketch-portrait of the painter, his hand raised as gesticulating responsively to an utterance of his that may be assumed to have gleeful reference to the result of his litigation in Paris, since the catalogue contains extracts from the summing up of the Advocate-General and the judgment of the President of the Court of Appeal.' 11

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: Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Knightsbridge, London, 1898 1898 (cat. no. 179).

2: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 1).

3: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 29).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 462).

5: Holker Abbott to J. Pennell, 31 March 1904, LC PC.

6: MacDonald 2015 [more].

7: Pennell 1921C [more], repr. p. 40.

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

9: R. Birnie Philip to E. G. Kennedy, 8 May 1898, GUW #09777.

10: Whistler to Ludovici, [26/30 April 1898], GUW #08075.

11: 'The International Gallery', Morning Post, London, 19 May 1898, p. 8.