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

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The Grey Man: Portrait of S. R. Crockett

The Grey Man: Portrait of S. R. Crockett probably dates from 1896, although it could have been started earlier. 1

On 15 April 1896 Samuel Rutherford Crockett (1860-1914) wrote to the publisher Thomas Fisher Unwin (1848-1935):

'Whistler has been painting my picture for some time, but will not discuss price until the thing has been done; I don't think, however, that he will overcharge me; it promises to turn out splendidly. Of course I shall pay the whole price, and you, if you want it, shall pay for the reproduction.' 2

According to the sitter (quoted by the Pennells), Unwin had arranged for Whistler to make a lithograph of Crockett, but about 1896 Whistler painted a small oil portrait, 'The Grey Man'. 3 In July 1896, Whistler wrote to Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936), 'I might ... show you Crockett's picture! - As far as it has gone, he is delighted with it - and I am rather pleased with it myself.' 4 Sittings were interrupted, according to the Pennells, by the illness and death of Whistler's wife in 1896. Sittings took place, according to Pennell and the painter Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927), at 8 Fitzroy Street, London. 5

Eventually – in 1898 – Crockett reminded Whistler that the picture had not been completed and Whistler replied on 9 January 1898:

'Why not further astonish me now that you venture to remind me of the picture at all, by coming on to Paris and presenting yourself!

That by the way, will really be your only chance of ever getting your portrait. - for I could not possibly go back to black London!

'So if you want the little painting after all you will have to make your pilgrimage - and your peace! to say nothing of proving to me that you have not too completely put yourself out of drawing for me to touch again!' 6

However, there is no further record of the portrait.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 453).

2: GUW #11817.

3: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, pp. 170-71.

4: [July 1896], GUW #07903.

5: Letter from McEvoy to W. R. Sickert, information from W. Baron in letter to A. McL. Young, 16 January 1973, GUL WPP file. Pennell 1908, op. cit.

6: 9 January [1898], GUW #02940.

Last updated: 7th April 2019 by Margaret