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

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Portrait of E. G. Kennedy (1)

Portrait of E. G. Kennedy (1) dates from 1893. 1

On 12 April 1893, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), New York dealer, hinted that Whistler might paint his portrait, and he wrote again on 10 June saying he would be available from 24 June. 2 According to the Pennells, in the summer of 1893,

'One Sunday, Mr. E. G. Kennedy's portrait was painted in the garden [at 110 rue du Bac] on a very small canvas or a panel . . . He worked away all afternoon .. If Kennedy shifted - there were no rests - Whistler would scream, and he worked on, and on, and the sun went down . . . a paint rag came out- and, with one fierce dash, it was all rubbed off; "Oh, well", was all he said.' 3

This implies that the portrait was destroyed but that is not certain, for on 9 July Kennedy wrote asking Whistler if he could take 'the picture' back:

'Can I take the picture back with me?

I shall keep it at home, occasionally under the influence of rain, if you so decree.

I hope to bring it over next year, and make marks on the garden seats while posing for the uncompleted picture - that is if you care to take it up again. It promises well & might be an interesting work.' 4

Although Whistler agreed, it is not clear what happened after that: it may have been destroyed after all. Instead a small portrait of Kennedy in a standing pose was continued the following year: see Portrait of E. G. Kennedy (2) [YMSM 404].


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 403).

2: Kennedy to J. Whistler, GUW #07214, and to B. Whistler, GUW #07218.

3: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, p. 146.

4: Kennedy to Whistler, 9 July 1893, GUW #07219. Whistler's reply, [12 July 1893], GUW #07220.

Last updated: 1st January 2021 by Margaret