Portrait of Dr William McNeill Whistler dates from 1872/1873. 1
This date is suggested on the basis of stylistic affinity with Whistler's Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter [YMSM 122], which was first exhibited in 1872. It is possible that the two portraits were intended as a gift either to his brother or to their mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881). If the painting was in Mrs Whistler's possession and returned to the artist on her death in 1881, it might explain an obscure reference in an undated letter from Whistler that implied the "portrait of 'mon frère' " was in his studio later in the 1880s, possibly together with his self-portrait. 2
The Pennells, writing in 1908, related the Portrait of Dr William McNeill Whistler, from the point of view of costume and technique, to the Portrait of Luke A. Ionides [YMSM 032], which was painted in 1860. 3 In fact the technique is totally different, and in any case this early date is clearly impossible because the sitter was then in America (the photograph above shows him in Confederate uniform). Nor is Portrait of Dr William McNeill Whistler technically consistent with Whistler's work in 1865, at the time of Dr Whistler's arrival in London.
Last updated: 13th December 2020 by Margaret