Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip may date from the late 1890s, although it has been variously dated between 1889 and 1903.
1889/1890s: Prof. A. McLaren Young suggested that the pose was related to that of Red and Black: The Fan [YMSM 388], which was considered to have been painted in the early 1890s. 1 However Red and Black: The Fan [YMSM 388] may have been started earlier.
1896: In Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, the sitter appears to be dressed severely in black, and this might reflect the period of mourning after the death of her sister, Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) , on 10 May 1896. Ethel's appearance at that time is recorded in several photographs. 2
1897-1900: Ethel (by then Mrs Whibley) is known to have been posing for Whistler at intervals from 1896 to 1897. The Hunterian dates the portrait ca 1897-1900. 3
1901/1903: Finally, a note on the verso of Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, written by Harold Wright (1885-1961) of Colnaghi's, on information provided by the sitter's sister, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), said this portrait was painted at Cheyne Walk 'about 1903'. This would make it one of Whistler's last paintings. Ethel did help her sister to nurse the ailing Whistler. His health made sittings less likely in 1902-1903, but stylistically a late date is possible.
2: Photographs of Ethel Whibley, Whistler collection, Special Collections, Glasgow University Library: see GUL Whistler PH1/50.
Last updated: 2nd November 2020 by Margaret