Sketch for a Portrait of Miss Ethel Philip is difficult to date. Various dates have been suggested, between the late 1880s and late 1890s. 1
1886/1889: The Hunterian website dated it ca 1886-1889, but it may, judging from the costume, with its suggestion of a bustle, be later. 2
1888: Ethel Philip – Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) – probably started posing for Whistler shortly after Whistler's marriage to her sister in 1888.
1889: Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) thought this was a sketch of Ethel Philip, relating to Red and Black: The Fan [YMSM 388]. 3 The position of the model's head and the style of the hat are similar but the dress is very different in colour and lacks the striking colour of Red and Black: The Fan.
1891/1896: Judging by the dress she is wearing, this Sketch for a Portrait of Miss Ethel Philip is compatible with a date of 1889, but could date from slightly later. Red and Black: The Fan has now been dated 1889/1896.
1891/1894: Ethel Philip continued to pose for Whistler during the years between 1891 in London and 1894 in Paris, before her marriage in 1895. The portrait under discussion is unlikely to date from 1894-1895 when extreme "leg o'mutton" sleeves were in fashion. It could however date from later in the 1890s.
1896: After her marriage, Ethel Whibley posed again in 1896 and probably 1897, and occasionally in later years until at least 1901. It is not, however, known exactly which portraits were being worked on during those years. The sombre black of the dress might reflect a period of mourning, for instance, after the death of Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896). The model's slightly matronly appearance would be consistent with this later date.
Last updated: 25th November 2020 by Margaret