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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Blue and Brown: The Little Bay <<   >>

Blue and Brown: The Little Bay

Blue and Brown: The Little Bay dated from 1881. 1

Whistler visited Guernsey and Jersey in October 1881. On 9 October he told Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885) 'I propose to be away for 10 days or a couple of weeks.' 2 Later he described the hazards of the trip to his sister-in-law, Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917):

'I only got here on Saturday morning - after a trip ... of the wildest - thirteen and a half hours of pitch and toss until it was a mere chance how I turned up - heads or tails! - At Guernsey then I chucked up the game and went ashore - There I stayed and struggled with wind and weather - and paintboxes with that perseverance that is the peculiarity of this family, as you will know - But what will you - quite hopeless - After being whisked about on the tops of very grand rocks and nearly blown into the sea canvas and all and dragging myself each evening back to the inn a dishevelled wreck of fright and disappointment I ceased a career only fit for an accrobat [sic] and came over to Jersey remembering that you had said it was comparatively flatter! ... but the weathercocks in the place have played me another trick and gone round, the lot of them, to the East - North East by East! - and awful it is - cold as Venice in winter - and everything hard as nails ... not a single picture have I managed yet - though I have tried ever so hard - but that you know is no comfort for - have I not written it! - 'mere industry is the virtue of the duffer'! - and poor as I am ... how is my journey to be payed [sic] for! ...

However I shall still try - for a few days longer ...

I have had the folly to bring with me lots of boxes and traps enough to produce a Gallery of chef d'oeuvres!' 3

According to T. R. Way, Whistler's trip to Guernsey and Jersey in 1881,

'resulted in several splendid oil-paintings, which I have never seen since; notably one of the vast deep blue wave, painted from the steamer near the Casquet rocks. I have a vivid recollection of the extraordinary liquidity and transparency of the water, so characteristic of the sea in those parts, all given, seemingly, in one great sweep of the brush.' 4


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 232).

2: 9 October [1881], GUW #12818.

3: [17 October 1881], GUW #06700.

4: Way 1912 [more], p. 59.

Last updated: 4th June 2020 by Margaret