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

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Harmony in Rose and Green: Carmen

Harmony in Rose and Green: Carmen probably dates from 1898 but could date from slightly later. 1

Harmony in Rose and Green: Carmen, The Hunterian
Harmony in Rose and Green: Carmen, The Hunterian

'Harmony in Rose & Green (Carmen) ... One of the "Carmen" series', was painted in Paris about 1898, according to a label on the back written by Harold Wright (1885-1961), probably from information given by Whistler's sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) .

This dating is confirmed by its similarity to other portraits of Carmen Rossi (b. ca 1878, and by the known association of Carmen and Whistler in Paris at this time. The earliest portrait of her was Crimson note: Carmen [YMSM 441], followed by this painting, Rose et or: La Napolitaine [YMSM 505] and Violet and Rose: Carmen qui rit [YMSM 506].

Carmen was certainly visiting Whistler in Paris by the summer of 1898: in August of that year he wrote: 'Carmen has appeared upon the scene - and by way of improving the occasion, I made her give Euphrasie a lesson in the [cleaning] of the brushes!' 2 By September she was established as proprietor of the Académie Carmen at No. 6 Passage Stanislas, Paris, and they were in frequent contact over its affairs in 1899 and 1900 (the Académie closed in 1901). It is possible that either Violet and Rose: Carmen qui rit [YMSM 506] or this painting could have been the portrait of Carmen Rossi which, according to the artist Gwen John – Gwen Salmond (1877-1958) – Whistler proposed to paint at the Académie Carmen in September 1898. 3

On 28 October 1898 Whistler was at work in London and wrote to Miss R. Birnie Philip, 'I want you to drive over to Chapuis ... and say that Monsieur hopes he is getting on all right with the two ovals - and his frames - Ask when I am to have them.' 4 This suggests that he had completed two oval portraits, possibly including this one.


1: Dated 'about 1898' in YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 507).

2: Whistler to R. B. Philip, [13 August 1898], GUW #04737.

3: Holroyd, Michael, Augustus John: A Biography, I : The Years of Innocence, London, 1974, p. 88.

4: [28 October 1898], GUW #04743.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret