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

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Girl in Black

Girl in Black dates from between 1899 and 1902. 1

The model, Lilian ('Lily') Pamington (b. 1887/1888), was posing for Whistler, possibly from 1899, and certainly in October 1900 and November 1901. 2

The dark green background, as seen in Girl in Black [YMSM 470], is common to a number of Whistler portraits of the late 1890s, up to 1903, such as La Toison rouge [YMSM 501], Brun et or: De race [YMSM 511], The Boy in a Cloak [YMSM 512], The Black Hat - Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip [YMSM 535], and what was perhaps his last portrait, Dorothy Seton - A Daughter of Eve [YMSM 552].

According to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (whose own portrait, Portrait of Charles L. Freer [YMSM 550], had just such a green background), ‘The pouting girl’ was one of 'A number [of portraits] known as "The Lilly" ' which he saw in Whistler’s studio in 1902. 3 The 1905 ISSPG catalogue suggested it was 'Probably the last picture Whistler painted', but if Freer was right, that is not true. 4


1: Dated '1896/1901' in YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 470).

2: Whistler to Mrs Burkitt, [30 October 1900], GUW #11207; R. Birnie Philip to Whistler, 3 November 1901, GUW #04822.

3: [1902], Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.

4: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 6).

Last updated: 21st November 2020 by Margaret