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

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Sea and Rain

Titles

Only one possible alternative has been suggested:

  • 'Sea and Rain' (1867, Royal Academy of Arts). 1
  • Possibly 'Harmonie en bleu et argent' (1883, Petit). 2
  • 'Seascape' and 'Sea and Rain' (1905, ISSPG). 3
  • 'Sea and Rain' (1980, YMSM). 4

On 26 April 1895 Whistler wrote to David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), 'the marine picture is not "Courbet on the shore." ... The present little sea piece used to be called as well as I remember: "Sea and Rain".' 5

'Sea and Rain' is the original and preferred title.

Description

Sea and Rain, Museum of Art, University of Michigan
Sea and Rain, Museum of Art, University of Michigan

A beach scene in horizontal format. A man stands at left on the still damp sands. Waves break far out on the beach. The sea is a pale blue/grey, under an even paler blue and grey sky.

The description by George Moore (1852-1933) of the colour, written in 1895, is not entirely consistent with the painting's present appearance:

'A pale grey is the sky, with snatches of blue showing through, and the sea is a pale brown with waves far away faintly and sadly curling. A little blue figure stands between the sand and the sea ... of the most exquisite blue imaginable, lighting up the entire picture.' 6

Site

Trouville, a town, port, and popular tourist destination on the coast of France. Whistler wrote from the Hotel du Bras d'Or, Trouville, to Lucas Ionides, 'This is a charming place - although now the season is quite over and every one has left - but the effects of sea and sky are finer than during the milder weather.' 7

Sitter

Unknown. According to Whistler 'the marine picture is not "Courbet on the shore." ' 8

Sea and Rain, Museum of Art, University of Michigan
Sea and Rain, Museum of Art, University of Michigan
Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was with Whistler at Trouville and is the figure in Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville [YMSM 064], but not, apparently, in Sea and Rain.

Notes:

1: 99th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1867 (cat. no. 670).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture, Galerie George Petit, Paris, 1883 (cat. no. 4).

3: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 3) in ordinary and deluxe editions, respectively.

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 65).

5: [24 April 1895], GUW #08304.

6: George Moore, 'The End of the Season', Speaker, 27 July 1895, p. 98.

7: 20 October 1865, GUW #11310.

8: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [24 April 1895], GUW #08304

Last updated: 29th December 2020 by Margaret