The figure, particularly in the face, the angle of the arms, and the drapery on the right, shows numerous signs of alterations, although the sea-scape is painted freely.
A life-drawing of a figure in a related pose, A nude looking in a mirror [M.0353], has been dated 1868/1869. In this, the tentative, flowing strokes of the chalk are reminiscent of the sketchy brushstrokes of the oil.
The painting was still in Whistler's hands in 1892, and may, as Curry suggests, have served as a 'muse' for the unfinished decorative panel, Study for Three Decorative Panels Representing 'The Landing of Columbus', 'Queen Isabel la Católica of Spain' and 'Queen Elizabeth of England' [YMSM 396], for Boston Public Library, between 1892 and 1895. 1
A later pastel called Venus [M.1523], showing a nude with floating drapery standing on a beach, may date from about 1898. It may well have been based on the oil. However, in the pastel, the figure is much less massive than the oil, her head is bent more to the left, and her left leg is also more bent.
The critic Malcolm Charles Salaman (1855-1940) saw 'a sketch of a Venus, very lovely in colour and design, the nude figure standing close to the sea with delicate gauze draperies being lifted by the breeze' in Whistler's studio in June 1886. 2 According to the artist Sidney Starr (1857-1925),
'In his Tite Street studio Whistler had shown me some canvases, one of them a Venus in low tones of ivory and gray-blue, bathed in the warm evening after-glow, a note of red on the ivory drapery, and spoke of painting a larger canvas of it soon. He never did. The study hung some years later between the windows of his dining room in Cheyne Walk.' 3
According to Freer conservation files, it was cleaned and resurfaced in 1931, 1949, and 1951, and resurfaced only, in 1937.
For some time between 1890 and 1892 Whistler had the so-called 'Six Projects' (actually five!) hanging in his house in Cheyne Walk, although they were not exhibited. The five ' Projects' were certainly framed by 1892, when they were cleaned and varnished by Stephen Richards (1844-1900), but returned to the artist, as he complained, 'without their frames? ! !' 5
The current Grau-style frame dates from after the painting was bought by C. L. Freer in 1903. It is of similar construction to the frames on the other 'Projects'. It was certainly on the frame by 1904, as seen in the photograph above.
Last updated: 2nd November 2020 by Margaret