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

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Portrait of Captain Williams

The Portrait of Captain Williams probably dates from the winter of 1856 to 1857. 1

On 5 August 1900 Whistler told Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936), '[I]n Paris, when I was first studying, Captain Williams from Stonington; Stonington Bill they called him, got me to paint his portrait, and then gave me a commission to copy as many pictures as I chose for twenty-five dollars a piece.' 2 The 'Captain' was almost certainly Charles Phelps Williams (1804-1879). He was travelling in Europe from about September 1856. In January 1857 Whistler was working on copies for Captain Williams. If the artist remembered the sequence of events correctly, and the portrait of Williams was painted in Paris, it probably dates from between September 1856 and January 1857, and was sent with his copies to C. P. Williams' house in Stonington by March 1858. 3

Whistler's copies included Copy after Schnetz's 'Les Adieux du consul Boëtus à sa famille' [YMSM 013]; Copy after Ziegler's 'La Vision de St Luc' [YMSM 015]; Copy after a Picture of an Inundation [YMSM 016], and Copy after Odier's 'Episode de la retraite de Moscou' [YMSM 017].


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 10).

2: Pennell 1921C [more], p. 171.

3: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 29 January 1857 and 25 March 1858, GUW #06480 and #06495.

Last updated: 21st November 2019 by Margaret