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

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Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers


Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, Detroit Institute of Arts
Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, Detroit Institute of Arts

It is painted very freely, with comparatively broad rounded brush strokes and vivid colour. The white breaking waves, and the ships, were painted with smaller, narrow brushes. The larger of the two boats appears to have been partly rubbed out and repainted, very summarily.

Conservation History

The edges of the painting are a little rubbed, possibly from being put away in a paint box while still wet, or possibly from the frame.

In January 1894 Whistler wrote to Stephen Richards (1844-1900), asking him to collect the painting:

'bring away from the Grafton Gallery a smaller painting of mine that they have placed upon an easel - It is called "Blue & Violet - Among the Rollers" - I have/written to Mr Prange to tell him that you would take it - Bring it home and if you think it dry enough, give it a rapid and even coat of varnish - for I know it would be much more brilliant with it - But this is what I want you to understand - I painted the panel out in the full sea - and some of the spray got upon it - and the salt made it a very long time in drying - and the last time I examined it - some two or three months ago, the surface seemed to me still sticky - so that I did not touch it, & it has never been varnished[.]

Dont rub it in any way - Perhaps you might gently wash it with a little beer in a soft brush - and that might take off any salt - I would dry it over hot air - only I fear the panel would warp - However you know all these things and in your hands I know I am perfectly safe - Therefore I say, if possible, varnish it - Then put it nicely back in the frame with the little board at its back, & paste it in, and take it to the Gallery all right - the same evening - so that it may be in time for the Press View.' 1


1893: Grau-style frame. 2

Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, detail
Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, detail
Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, verso
Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, verso

On 30 October 1893 Whistler instructed D. C. Thomson:

'Now about the "Violet & Blue - among the Rollers" - I am glad that you have it all right - now dont neglect the fitting it perfectly in the frame - and putting the panel at the back - well pasted in - and all ship shape - with frame cleaned & retouched.' 3


1: [16 January 1894], GUW #02903.

2: Dr S. L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017.

3: GUW #08245.

Last updated: 12th November 2020 by Margaret