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

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La Mère Gérard (1)


La Mère Gérard (1), Colby College Museum of Art
La Mère Gérard (1), Colby College Museum of Art

The figure is lit from above, and her face is strongly modelled with bold brushstrokes. The bonnet was originally slightly higher at left. The paint is applied fairly thickly, with impasto on the highlights of skin and on the bonnet, with its trailing ribbons. A rich black outline separates her from the dark background.

Way & Dennis suggested 'the influence of a study of Tintoret', and recalled that Whistler had jokingly described the portrait of Mère Gérard as an 'old master.' 1

Conservation History

It was cleaned by Daniel de Carlo, Los Angeles, in 1968.


Broad gilded wood frame with rows of reeding each side of a flat panel, the painting mounted in a broad gold flat. A label on the verso reads 'James Whistler / 47 Hans Place / Chelsea / No 2. Oil painting / "La Mère Gérard".', with a note by Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) dated '2.5.1922', saying that the label is in Whistler's hand, which it is not.


1: Way & Dennis 1903 [more], pp. 15, 22–23.

Last updated: 18th April 2021 by Margaret