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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Variations in Blue and Green <<   >>

Variations in Blue and Green


  • 1879: probably acquired at Whistler's bankruptcy by Thomas Way (1837-1915), London;
  • By 1892: returned to Whistler;
  • 1903: bought from Whistler by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), Detroit;
  • 1919: bequeathed by C. L. Freer to the Freer Gallery of Art.

Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) noted that, 'The shore scene girls and sea, like Kiyonaga' was in Whistler's studio in London in 1902 and he bought it from Whistler in July 1903 for £1000. 1


  • 1874: Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, 48 Pall Mall, London, 1874 (cat. no. 12) as 'Variations in Blue and Green'.
  • 1899: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galeries George Petit, Paris, 1899 (catalogue untraced).
  • 1904: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 24).
  • 1905: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 15).

In the Pall Mall exhibition of 1874 it was described by an art critic simply as one of two paintings 'neither of which reveal to us their subject with sufficient clearness. We just perceive a fascination of dimly suggested scheme of colour, and note here and there a graceful attitude defining itself from the obscurity of the general mist.' 2

Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL Whistler P402
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL Whistler P402

Whistler sketched this oil when it went to the Galerie Georges Petit in 1899, in a letter sent to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958). 3

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, GUL Whistler PH6/21
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, GUL Whistler PH6/21

C. L. Freer lent the painting to exhibitions in his lifetime, including the Boston exhibition of 1904, where the 'Projects' were exhibited together, as shown in the photograph reproduced above. However, by the terms of Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, the painting cannot now be lent to any other venue.


1: n.d., Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.

2: 'Exhibition of Mr. Whistler's Paintings and Drawings', Globe, London, 20 June 1874, p. 2. Press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 1, p. 79.

3: Whistler to R. Birnie Philip, [5 December 1899], with drawing, Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit [M.1600], GUW #04762.

Last updated: 23rd November 2020 by Margaret