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

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Brun et or: De race


  • 1903: in Whistler's studio at his death and bequeathed to his ward and executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958);
  • 1935: given by Miss Birnie Philip to the University of Glasgow.


  • 1905: 15th Exhibition, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1905 (cat. no. 30) as 'Brun et Or – de Race'.
  • 1905: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 36)as 'Brun et or. De Race. – Brown and Gold. De race'.

The high level of finish and the existence of a butterfly signature imply that this work was ready for exhibition in Whistler's lifetime, but no such exhibition has been identified. It has been suggested that it was The Golden Lily [YMSM 542], which was exhibited in 1901, but descriptions of that painting do not tally with the appearance of this boy.

It was, however, shown both at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in London and the Whistler memorial exhibition in Paris in 1905. The Pall Mall Gazette on 9 November described it as 'inimitable'.

When it was shown in Loan Collection of Works by James McNeill Whistler, Tate Gallery, London, 1912 it caught the attention of Ezra Pound (1885-1972), whose poem includes the lines:

You also, our first great, / Had tried all ways; / Tested and pried and worked in many fashions, / And this much gives me heart to play the game.

Here is a part that’s slight, and part gone wrong, / And much of little moment, and some few / Perfect as Dürer!

"In the Studio" and these two portraits, if I had my choice!' 1

The 'two portraits' are identified in a note as Grenat et or: Le Petit Cardinal [YMSM 469] and Brun et or: De race [YMSM 511].

By the terms of Miss R. Birnie Philip's gift to the University of Glasgow, it is not lendable.


1: Beasley, Rebecca, 'Ezra Pound's Whistler', American Literature, vol. 74 (3), 2002, pp. 485-516, fig. 1; online at London: Birkbeck ePrints, See Pound, Ezra., Poetry, October 1912, p. 7; Pound, Ezra, Personae, New York, 1949, p. 243, and London, 1952, p. 243; Pound, Ezra, Patria Mia, Chicago, 1950, pp. 50-51; Pound, Ezra, Patria Mia and the Treatise on Harmony, London, 1962, pp. 34-35.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret