Sketch for 'Annabel Lee' is difficult to date, with suggested dates spanning a period of nearly thirty years from 1868 to 1900, with a certain amount of evidence pointing to the earlier period, between 1868 and 1877, and some to a later period. 1
The painting incorporates items similar to those in other paintings: for instance, the model is standing on a white rug with a blue pattern, somewhat similar to that in Sketch for 'La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine' [YMSM 049], which dates from 1863/1864. However, the technique is different.
1869: The title, which is of fairly recent origin, suggests that this was a study for Annabel Lee [YMSM 079], which has similarities in composition. This might indicate a date between 1869 and 1877. However, Sketch for 'Annabel Lee' is painted thinly, with fluid, expressive brushstrokes, which suggests a slightly later date.
1871/1873: The pattern of the balcony railings is similar to that seen in the recto of a pastel, r.: Morning Glories; v.: Nude study [M.0410], which has been dated 1871/1873, although it may have been touched up later. In its turn this drawing is closely related to r.: Study for 'Morning Glories'; v.: Standing nude [M.0411], which is signed with a butterfly that indicates a date of 1873/1874.
1879/1886: Whistler painted a model in a similar pose, but holding a parasol and standing on a plaited rug by a balcony, in Harmony in Blue and Gold [YMSM 197], which was exhibited in 1879, but may date from earlier. It is only known through a drawing, Sketch of 'Harmony in Blue and Gold' [M.1095], that has been dated, from the butterfly signature, 1886.
1883/1884: There are similarities in subject, pose and colour to the oil, Ariel [YMSM 318], which may date from 1883 or 1884.
The thin paint, which resembles Whistler’s thinned ‘sauce’ rather than megilp, suggesting a late rather than a very early date. 2
1896/1900: However, it is also just possible that Sketch for 'Annabel Lee' dates from between 1896 and 1900, when Annabel Lee [YMSM 079], is said to have been rubbed down for reworking.
Last updated: 20th October 2020 by Margaret