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

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Symphony in Blue and Pink


  • 1879: probably acquired at Whistler's bankruptcy by Thomas Way (1837-1915), London;
  • By 1892: returned to Whistler;
  • 1903: bought from the artist in July by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), Detroit, for £1000;
  • 1919: bequeathed by C. L. Freer to the Freer Gallery of Art.


  • 1874: Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, 48 Pall Mall, London, 1874 (cat. no. 11) as 'Symphony in Blue and Pink'.
  • 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. 23).
  • 1905: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 16).

When exhibited in Whistler's one-man exhibition in 1874 'Symphony in Blue and Pink' was described favourably in a press cutting from the Globe, that was kept by the artist:

'As another attractive feature of the gallery, we have a certain number of designs for pictures. These are painted in oil, but without any fullness of realisation, and giving merely the artist's first thought of the design and colour that is to be thrown into the finished work. One of these represents four female figures on the sea shore; another is of some girls arranging flowers in bright sunlight; and there are two more, 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.' 1
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402

This painting was in the panel exhibited at Petit's in 1899 and was drawn in a sketch sent to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) on 5 December, Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit [M.1600]. 2

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 C. L. Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, the painting cannot now be lent to any other venue.


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

2: [5 December 1899], GUW #04762.

Last updated: 4th December 2020 by Margaret