Whistler's own title is not known. The only known title is as follows:
There are variations in capitalisation; the preferred title is 'La petite maison rouge' as published in 1905. The title of this painting translates as 'The little red house'.
A vertical panel showing the backs of several two-storey houses. At right is a red-brick house with red-tiled roof and chimneys. The other buildings appear to be grey or back, constructed of painted or tarred wood, again with brick chimneys. A small hut in the centre has a white roof, perhaps metal, and untreated wood around the near corner. A grey fence surrounds the area at the back of the houses. In front of this, in the foreground of the picture, is a grey wall surrounding a muddy yard, with stacks of lumber and a manger at right, and, at left, several animals – it is not entirely clear if these are cows, donkeys, mules or horses.
The exact location of the house is not known, though it may be in Hastings, England, where Whistler's mother stayed from 1874 until her death in 1881. The grey huts could be smoke-houses for smoking fish. It is possible it was painted in Hastings in 1881, in St Ives, Cornwall, in 1884, or even later.
The title by which the painting was shown in 1905, 'La petite maison rouge', may have been suggested by Whistler to his sister-in-law, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958). However, it is possible that the scene itself, as well as the title, is French. Whistler was frequently in French ports and fishing villages, either on holiday or en route to Paris, from the mid-1880s and through the 1890s.
Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret