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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt <<   >>

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt possibly dates from 1893. 1

According to Walford Graham Robertson (1867-1948):

'Once, during a visit to Paris, Whistler had begun a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, but I fancy it went little beyond the first sitting: Sarah had arrived late, had failed to keep appointments, and had been unable or unwilling to give the artist the allegiance that he required from a sitter. On his return he was talking over the incident with me when suddenly he paused. "By the by," he said, "someone told me that you had asked her not to sit to me - had said that it would not be worth her while ... Of course I knew you hadn't."' 2

The artist and collector Graham Robertson met Whistler in 1890 when he bought Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso [YMSM 073] and Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder [YMSM 203]. Whistler visited Paris frequently from 1890 on. Bernhardt was on tour in America in 1891 and Europe in 1892 and was back for an immensely successful season in Paris in 1893 as producer, director and star of the Théâtre de la Renaissance. The portrait could have been painted then but there is no other record of it.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 399).

2: W. G. Robertson 1931 A [more], p. 197.

Last updated: 25th October 2019 by Margaret