There is a small rough sketch that may be related to Whistler's ideas for the composition of Symphony in Blue and Pink [YMSM 086], and a more elaborate watercolour Design for a fan [M.0392], which was once owned by the artist Charles Hazlewood Shannon (1863-1937), and is now in the Lunder collection.
It is painted fairly thinly, with creamy textured paint in layer upon layer of colour, over a dark grey ground. The white robe of the figure at left was painted a little more thickly, with some impasto. The upper part of the body of the girl on the right has white painted over blue, green over purple and white below that, and white over blue over red on the skirt. Apart from the colour changes, the only compositional change was to the parasol. In shape it was originally a flatter ellipse, behind and to right of the woman's head; it was moved to the left in several stages. The parasol in its final form was painted over the sea. At a late stage, much of the sky and sea was painted with slightly thicker paint up to and around the figures.
For some time Whistler had five of the 'Six Projects' hanging in his house in Cheyne Walk. In June 1892 they were cleaned and varnished by Stephen Richards (1844-1900), his picture restorer in London. Whistler then asked David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) to retrieve them from Richards and send them to him in Paris, 'I want my small pictures that you gave him to clean and varnish ... the sketches that used to hang in the dining room, Cheyne Walk ... Do kindly get them off to me at once.' 1 However, when they arrived he wrote to Richards from Paris:
'I have just received the five small paintings on millboard - (sketches of figures & sea) - that you have cleaned & varnished for me. They look pure and brilliant as on the day they were painted! -
But while you were about it, I wish enough you had seen to the condition of their backs - They were put down upon other cardboards some time ago, and they are all loose and bent about now … How could you let them leave your place, clean and freshly varnished as they were, unframed!
This is so unlike your usual thoughtfulness and great care! I was horrified! However happily they are unharmed.' 2
According to Freer Gallery conservation files the painting was cradled, cleaned and resurfaced in 1931, resurfaced in 1942, cleaned and surfaced in 1951.
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.' 3
The current Grau-style frame dates from1903 when the painting was bought by C. L. Freer. It is of similar construction to the frames on the other 'Projects'. 4 It was certainly on the frame by 1904, as seen in the photograph above.
Last updated: 4th December 2020 by Margaret