Blue and Silver: The Devonshire Cottages dates from between 1862 and 1865 but was touched up and signed over thirty years later, in 1895.
1862: It could have been painted as early as 1862: for instance, the brushwork on the trees is comparable to that in A White Note [YMSM 044], which dates from October/November 1862. In technique, with its areas of impasto and palette knife work, it also bears comparison with paintings of Trouville and Dieppe in the mid-1860s.
1862/1864: Whistler recorded in a notebook what appear to be directions for travelling to the south-west of England: 'Seaton - (Red) Lion - Beer - Ticket by Direct Exeter from Waterloo - to Axminster Colyton, buss [sic] to Seaton.' 1 These towns are in east Devon. Beer is on Lyme Bay on the south-east coast, two kilometres west of Seaton, and Colyton is inland. There is no other record of this trip.
1884: It has also been suggested – incorrectly – that Whistler painted Blue and Silver: The Devonshire Cottages on the way to or from St Ives, Cornwall in 1884. 2 However, in scale and technique it is quite different from the St Ives paintings, of which Note in Blue and Opal: The Sun Cloud [YMSM 271] is an example.
1895: Whistler touched up, signed and framed Blue and Silver: The Devonshire Cottages, and, in a letter written from Lyme Regis, described it as owned for many years by his brother, William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900) and sister-in-law Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917). 3 Whistler's biographers, the Pennells, owned letters from Whistler, written from Lyme Regis, discussing this painting; they therefore assumed, wrongly, that Blue and Silver: The Devonshire Cottages was painted there in 1895. 4 Likewise, a later owner, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) thought, mistakenly, that it had been painted at Lyme Regis and that the 'Devonshire' of the title should read 'Dorsetshire'. 5
5: Note in Freer Gallery Archives.
Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret