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

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Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho

Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho was painted in 1898 and 1899.

1898: Whistler intended to paint Edith Burkitt (1884-1973), the younger daughter of his landlady at 8 Fitzroy Street, but she was taken ill so her sister Sophie Burkitt (1882-1959) was sent instead. Whistler made a 'rough sketch' of Sophie, 'became interested in her as a subject', and decided to complete her portrait before starting on Edith's; he worked on it 'at intervals for some weeks' before he returned to Paris in February 1898. 1 At the same time, in February, David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) told Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920) that Whistler was working on 'a little girl the "Princess" ', which was probably this painting. 2

1899: It was continued, according to Edith Burkitt, at 110 rue du Bac where Sophie had about three sittings in six weeks; this, according to Whistler's sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), was probably about March 1899. 3

Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho, Freer Gallery of Art
Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho, Freer Gallery of Art

It was first exhibited at the 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899 (cat. no. 138). It was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), but after the exhibition Whistler wrote to Freer, 'The little Lady of Soho! I am glad you have chosen her too - I think before she is packed, I know of a touch I must add - and then she can follow you in the next steamer.' 4 In August the artist wrote to Freer from Pourville: 'I am having sent to you a photogravure they have just done of the little Lady Sophie - to keep her in your mind, in case she remain with me for another couple of Steamers!' 5

1900: According to the Pennells, Whistler showed them the portrait at 8 Fitzroy Street, 'the Little Lady Sophie that he has worked on since the International last year, giving it finer colour and tone.' 6 It was finally sent to Freer in June 1900. 7


1: Shaw, Edith, and Margaret F. MacInnes, 'Four Years with Whistler', Apollo, vol. 87, March 1968, pp. 198-201. YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 504).

2: Eddy to Whistler, 1 March 1898, GUW #01029.

3: R. Birnie Philip to Ethel Whibley, 28 April 1899, GUL Whistler BP III.

4: Whistler to Freer, 29 July 1899, GUW #03196.

5: [4 August 1899], GUW #03197.

6: They date this to 14 July 1900, but this is incorrect. Pennell 1921C [more], pp. 77, 281.

7: Freer to Whistler, 27 June 1900, GUW #01518.

Last updated: 21st November 2020 by Margaret