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

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Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl

Titles

One main title has been suggested:

  • 'Scherzo in Blue – "The Blue Girl" ' (1882, Grosvenor). 1
  • 'Portrait of Miss Maud Waller. The Blue Girl (destroyed)' (1911, Pennell). 2
  • 'Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl' (1980, YMSM). 3

'Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl' is the preferred title.

Description

Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl, Whereabouts unknown
Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl, Whereabouts unknown

A full length portrait of a girl in vertical format. She stands with legs apart and hands on hips. She wears a dark dress with knee-length skirt, with a long waistcoat or tunic over it. She has long dark hair. A hat with a feather sits on her head.

The pose and costume are also closely related to those in the portrait of Elinor Leyland (The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland [YMSM 111]). Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl [YMSM 226] is the last of Whistler's 'Blue Girls' (see Annabel Lee [YMSM 079]).

The photograph of Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl [YMSM 226] owned by Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938), and reproduced by the Pennells, is the principal visual record of the painting. 4 This photograph gives the proportions for Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl [YMSM 226]. These proportions correspond to a canvas of approximately 191 x 99 cm (75 x 39"). The sketch of Whistler's studio by Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), reproduced below, suggests that the portrait might have been marginally smaller.

W. R. Sickert, Whistler's studio, private collection
W. R. Sickert, Whistler's studio, private collection

Sickert's sketch shows that the hat was dark blue with pale blue trimming and feather. Her shoulder-length hair is blonde. A pale blue dress, coming to just below the knee, is tied with a light-coloured belt. An over dress appears to have panels of alternate blueish white and pale blue, with dark blue trimming at the front, on the shoulder caps, and on the scalloped hem. She has dark blue high-heeled shoes and pale blue tights.

Sitter

Maud Mary Waller (1862-1942) (later Mrs Monk). According to Pickford Robert Waller (1849-1930), 'The original "Blue Girl" was painted from my brother's (Major Waller's) second daughter, Maud. She was a beautiful child and quite a pet of Whistlers'. 5

Notes:

1: VI Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1882 (cat. no. 67).

2: Pennell 1911 A [more], repr. f.p. 300.

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 226).

4: Pennell 1911 A [more], repr. f.p. 300 as 'Portrait of Miss Maud Waller. The Blue Girl (destroyed).

5: Waller to Pennell, 19 November 1906, LC PC.

Last updated: 9th November 2019 by Margaret