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

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The Sea, Brittany

The Sea, Brittany was probably painted in 1888.

The Sea, Brittany, The Hunterian
The Sea, Brittany, The Hunterian

The butterfly signature indicates a date of 1888 or shortly after. When Whistler married Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896), he incorporated a trefoil in his butterfly signature, both because he said Beatrice was his 'Luck' and also because her monogram (P, reversed, and B, for Beatrice Philip) resembled a trefoil.

The Sea, Brittany may have been painted in the autumn of 1888 when the Whistlers were on their honeymoon. On 25 August 1888 Alan S. Cole noted in his diary that he had met them at Boulogne, 'J. sketching on sands.' 1

The Whistlers were also in Brittany in the late summer of 1893, although Whistler wrote at that time that painting had been difficult, if not impossible: 'We came down here to paint sea pieces, and have been unable to look at the sea for three weeks it has been nearly one incessant glare with a cloudless sky.' 2

The Bathing Posts, Brittany, The Hunterian
The Bathing Posts, Brittany, The Hunterian

This oil is difficult to date and somewhat different in style from other seascapes. However, it bears comparison in colour and technique with The Bathing Posts, Brittany [YMSM 409].


1: Copy, GUW #03432.

2: Whistler to Max Williams, [15 August/10 September 1893], GUW #11717.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret