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

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Copy after a Picture of an Inundation

Copy after a Picture of an Inundation dates from 1857 or 1858. 1

On 17 June 1856, Whistler, sponsored by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1806-1874), obtained permission to enter the Musées Impériaux, Paris, 'pour les jours d'étude' (on study days). 2

Years later, on 6 August 1900, Whistler told the Pennells that when he was first studying in Paris he got a commission from Captain Williams of Stonington, Conn. 'to copy as many pictures as I chose for twenty-five dollars a piece, and I copied … [a picture of] an inundation.' 3 The Pennells suggest that this was 'no doubt The Deluge or The Wreck.' 4

Two of Whistler's copies date from 1857 (Copy after Schnetz's 'Les Adieux du consul Boëtus à sa famille' [YMSM 013] and Copy after Ziegler's 'La Vision de St Luc' [YMSM 015]). Others may date from 1858; however, there is no record in the Archives du Louvre of Whistler having requested permission to copy a painting of an 'Inundation.'

Paul Huet, L'inondation à St Cloud, Musée du Louvre
Paul Huet, L'inondation à St Cloud, Musée du Louvre

It is possible that the 'Inundation' was an oil, L'inondation à St Cloud, 203 × 300 cm, painted by the Romantic landscape painter Paul Huet (1803-1869). It was first exhibited in 1855 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where it is possible that Whistler first saw it. It was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg in 1857 (R.F.96), and admired by Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). 5 It could have been copied by Whistler in the Musée du Luxembourg in late 1857 or early 1858.

Several copies done for Charles Phelps Williams (1804-1879) were painted during that period, and were back in Stonington by March 1858. 6


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 16).

2: Card No. 3338, Comte Alfred Émilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke (1811-1892) to Whistler, GUW #04523.

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

4: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 73.

5: See O’ Reilly 2013 [more], at p. 134.

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

Last updated: 21st November 2019 by Margaret