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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Portrait of Anna Denny <<   >>

Portrait of Anna Denny


In 1858 Whistler's mother commented cattily on portraits of the Winans family then being painted by Joseph Alexander Ames (1816-1872), portrait and genre painter, at Thomas Winans' villa in Baltimore, where Whistler had apparently worked on his portrait of Annie Denny, several years earlier:

'Ames the Artist was in the studio at the Villa, probably painting portraits of her children, as she said he was claiming much of her time. he certainly does succeed in the most pleasing portraits restoring years to his subjects. you will recollect old Mr [blank] who was guest at the Villa when you were painting Annie Denny & who found so much fault with your Amateur skill in hands, you had the promise from your host & patron that you should paint the odd old genious [sic] who rather shrunk from daub likenesses, but I am sure Ames has fed his vanity by the flattering yet excellent likeness he has finished.' 1

In 1882, many years after the portrait was painted, Frank Larned Hunt (1825-1903) reminisced about his first meeting with Whistler, just after the artist had left the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"We became friends at once and to me was confided the delicate task of building you an Easel - when you painted your 'belle cousine Annie Denny', you chose the color in a melancholy place behind 'Gadsbys' - I can see us both coming out now - and awakened the admiration - not only of all - but even that veteran Artist Chas B King by the charming grace and color of the portrait." 2

He was referring to the portrait painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862).

Conservation History

It is not known if this portrait was completed.




1: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 7 May 1858, GUW #06496. It is possible the 'old genius' was Ross Winans (1795-1877).

2: December 1882, GUW #02200.

Last updated: 13th December 2020 by Margaret