Several possible titles have been suggested:
'Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room', based on the 1892 and 1980 titles, is generally accepted.
A figure composition in vertical format. At left is a mirror in which a dark haired woman, wearing a grey dress with a white collar, is seen leaning forward in three-quarter view to right. On the wall above her (as seen in the mirror) is a small framed print. On the shelf below the mirror stands an ornate painted white china vase with a pink lid and twirly handles.
Beyond the mirror, either side of an unseen window, there are floor length curtains decorated with sprigs of green leaves and flowers in shades of red from pink to purple. The light from the window shines to right, onto a young girl in white sitting reading a book and facing slightly to left. Her dress has a high neck and long sleeves, and the full skirt falls well below her knees; her legs are clad in white stockings and black shoes.
Above the child, on the far wall, is a lamp with a white glass shade and silver fitments. Above it is a gold framed drawing or print showing the bent head of a woman in profile to left, and, to right of that, the bottom of another small gold picture frame. The wall is cream with a pale green dado trimmed in gold, with a round gilt bell at right.
At front right is a woman in a black riding dress and black hat, standing and facing right, with her face in three-quarter view to right. It is implied that this black-clad woman is talking to the woman seen in the mirror, who is actually sitting out of the picture, to right. She has a white flower in her black bonnet, white collar, cuffs and gloves. Her right hand, hanging at her side, is gloved and holds the other glove. Her left arm is raised, resting on a shoulder-height screen or stand of some sort, from which hangs a length of cloth in similar colours to the curtains, but with a smaller pattern; it has a lace fringe or band around the top.
Whistler's niece, Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), who was one of the sitters, told the Pennells that the picture was painted in the music room at 62 Sloane Street, the home of her parents, Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908) and Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910). She added that the room still existed, 'though the present owners have enlarged it.' 9
Whistler had already painted both Annie and Deborah Haden in the music room, in At the Piano [YMSM 024]; the colouring of the wall, in cream and green, is identical in both paintings. He also etched the room, but without Annie, in The Music Room .
THE GIRL: Whistler's niece, Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), posed at 62 Sloane Street, the home of her parents. She is shown sitting reading.
Annie's appearance is similar to that seen in an etching made a year earlier, between December 1859 and early 1860, Annie, Seated . An impression of this that was kept by her father, Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), is reproduced above.
Mrs Thynne (Annie Haden) told the Pennells:
'I was very young at the time of the music-room pictures being painted, and beyond the fact of not minding sitting, in spite of the interminable length of time, I do not know that I can say more. It was a distinctly amusing time for me. He was always so delightful and enjoyed the 'no lessons' as much as I did. One day in The Morning Call ... picture, I did get tired without knowing it, and suddenly dissolved into tears, whereupon he was full of the most tender remorse, and rushed out and bought me a lovely Russia leather writing set, which I am using at this very moment ! ... It was then he gave me the pencil sketches I lent to the London Memorial Exhibition. I had kept them in an album he had also brought me from Paris, with my name in gold, stamped outside, of which I was very proud. We were always good friends, and I have nothing all through those early days but the most delightful remembrance of him.' 10
The sketches that Whistler gave to Annie mostly date from 1858 and include a portrait of her in a slightly shorter skirt, Annie Haden [M.0219], reproduced above. 11 It is possible that her memory was incorrect and that the gift dated from an earlier session, when she was posing for At the Piano [YMSM 024] for instance.
THE SEATED WOMAN: Annie's mother, Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908), is reflected in the mirror. It has been suggested that she was playing the piano, but she looks more as if she is just having a conversation with the woman in riding dress. She posed many times for Whistler: she is seen playing music in At the Piano [YMSM 024] and with a book in Reading by Lamplight .
THE WOMAN IN RIDING DRESS: Isabella Mary Anne Grant Boott (1831/32-1892). 12 Isabella ('Belle') was the daughter of Francis Boott, an American doctor who had settled in England, and his wife Mary Hardcastle; their family included Mary, John, Francis H., Kirk, Lucy A., and Elizabeth R. Boott. At the time of the 1861 census Isabella was staying with her brother Francis in Worcestershire. Her father died in London two years later. By 1871 she was working as an accountant and living comfortably in Gower Street, London, with her married sister Mary, a cook and a housekeeper. She did not marry. She died on 6 June 1892 in Lyons, France. 13
Miss Boott was, according to the Pennells, 'a connection of the Hadens by marriage.' 14 Deborah Haden's husband, Francis Seymour Haden, was the son of Emma and Charles Thomas Haden (1786-1824). His brother, Charles Sydenham Haden (1822-1898), a London merchant and collector, married Isabella's sister Mary Love Boott. 15 Thus Isabella was the sister of the sister-in-law of Whistler's half-sister.
JAPONISME: Charles Henry Caffin (1854-1918) asserted that it was influenced by Japanese prints, specifically a print by Utamaro. 16 Léonce Bénédite (1859-1925) also believed that this painting showed that Whistler was already aware of Japanese art, a supposition which has since been disputed, particularly by Sandberg. 17 Toshio Watanabe, on the other hand, suggested that the arched back of the equestrian, 'the position and the silhouette effect of the hand, the sweeping line and the elegance of the figure' resemble a woodcut of the geisha Itsuhana from the series Seirou geisha sen (Selected Geishas from the Pleasure Quarters) by Chobunsai Eishi (1756-1829), a pupil of Torrii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) and rival of Utamaro. 18
Whistler's woman in her black riding dress, and indeed the whole composition, resembles the interaction of gracefully turning figures in triptych prints by Eishi and others: in fact, it most resembles a panel from the left of a triptych (or diptych), that would be explained and completed if a further panel was added to the right. 19
INFLUENCES: Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) described it as 'a picture which has inspired some members of the New English Art Club more perhaps than any other work of our day', adding: 'The painting of the accessories – the green shaded lamp over the girl's head, the chintz curtains, the porcelain vase reflected in the mirror – is of the most marvellous brilliance, and the whole picture is pitched in the highest possible key of colour.' 20 This is surprising, since it had rarely been exhibited. And the lamp, in fact, has a white shade, so it was clearly not very familiar to the writers.
'the influence of the Louvre and Courbet is evident. ... Fantin could not have been more conscientious in rendering the life about him exactly as he found it than Whistler was in The Music Room; only, the room in the London house, with its gay chintz curtains and draperies, has none of the sombre simplicity of the interior where Fantin's sisters sit with their embroidery and books. Fantin's home gave him an austerity he knew how to make beautiful; to Whistler, the Hadens' house gave colour.' 21
Curry suggested that the 1833 lithograph Laure by Paul Gavarni (1804-1866) was perhaps the source of the pose of Annie Haden, and that the dress of Miss Boott would have been immediately recognised as the riding dress of a fashionable 'Amazone' with its association with dandyism. 22
Others, Linda Merrill among them, see in the painting the influence of Dutch painting. 23 Perhaps Whistler himself was aware of this influence, when he described it in 1892 as 'quite primitive - but such sunshine! none of the Dutchmen to compare with it - and such colour!' 24
2: Academy Charity Exhibition, Academy of Music, Baltimore, March 1876 (cat. no. 47).
3: 'Art Notes', Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, 18 March 1876, GUL Whistler PC 1/73.
4: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 12).
5: Colnaghi's records, 26 July 1894.
6: Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (cat. no. 102).
11: The sketches that Annie Haden kept in an album include Bains à Dieppe [M.0220], A Woman in a tall bonnet and a man in a top hat [M.0221], Maison, Rue Orbe [M.0224], Rue des Matelots [M.0225], Three women at a door [M.0227], La Courtisane des Étudiants, Heidelberg [M.0249], Man in a peaked cap [M.0263], and Sailor seated [M.0264], and were drawn between 1855 and 1858.
12: Fleming states that she was a niece of Kirk Boott, the founder of Lowell, Massachusetts ( Flem1978 [more], p. 161). Whistler's younger brother Kirk (who died early) also had the name Boott, which might imply a link between the Whistlers and Francis Boott of Lowell and his family. But since they lived in Lowell for some years, the name might merely have been a token of respect.
13: The surname was spelled in various documents as Boot, Boott, Boat, and Burth. UK census 1861, 1871.
15: A letter from Daria Haden to Joseph Whistler Revillon (1886-1955), 10 July 1945, mentions Charles Haden, 'Rosie Boot', 'Belle' and 'Mary Boot' and gives family background information, GUL MS Revillon 3/162; see also J. W. Revillon to F. W. Coburn, 22 August 1945, MS Revillon 2/6; UK census 1861, 1871, and family trees in Wikitree at http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Boott-26.
19: For example, Chôbunsai Eishi, Teahouse near Fields, ca 1790, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 21.7553-5, website; and Hosoda Eishi, A Modern Version of the Concert of Ushiwakamaru and Jôruri-hime, 1797-1800, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website at https://ukiyo-e.org.
22: Curry 1984 [more], p. 102, pl. 3. Curry illustrates a watercolour by Paul Gavarni (1804-1866), Amazone, 1830, and a photograph by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon alias Nadar (1820-1910) of Mlle Jenny in Costume of an Amazone. See also MacDonald 2003 [more], pp. 122-23.
Last updated: 18th December 2020 by Margaret