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

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Portrait of Miss Lilian Woakes

Portrait of Miss Lilian Woakes probably dates from between late 1892 and the autumn of 1893. 1

This portrait was probably commissioned by the sitter's father, Edward G. Woakes (1837-1912), a doctor then practising in Harley Street, London. Théodore Duret (1838-1927) wrote that it was painted from about the winter of 1890 until mid-1891, but later revised this to a date of 1892, which is more likely. 2

Portrait of Miss Lilian Woakes, Phillips Memorial Gallery
Portrait of Miss Lilian Woakes, Phillips Memorial Gallery

Whistler had asked for three sittings but took about twenty-five, and he intended the pink bow at the neck of her blouse to stand for his butterfly signature but, on the insistence of the sitter, he added a conventional butterfly to the left of the neck. 3 The painting was given to Dr Woakes unvarnished, to be varnished a year or so later when Whistler advised it. 4


1: It was dated slightly earlier, 1890-1891, in YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 393).

2: T. Duret to Pennell, 1 August 1911, LC PC; date revised in Duret 1914 [more], repr. f.p. 146.

3: Whistler, Macbeth Galleries, New York, 1914 (cat. no. 3).

4: Whistler to Dr W. Whistler, [10/17 September 1893], GUW #11618.

Last updated: 14th October 2020 by Margaret