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

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The Sea, Pourville, No. 1

The Sea, Pourville, No. 1 probably dates from the late summer or autumn of 1899. 1

The Sea, Pourville, No. 1, The Hyde Collection
The Sea, Pourville, No. 1, The Hyde Collection
Green and Silver: The Great Sea, The Hunterian
Green and Silver: The Great Sea, The Hunterian

It is dated by comparison with other Pourville subjects, such as Green and Silver: The Great Sea [YMSM 518] and The Sea, Pourville, No. 2 [YMSM 519].

In the summer of 1899 Whistler took a house, the Pavillon Madeleine, at Pourville-sur-mer, near Dieppe, for his sister-in-law, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), and her mother. Whistler stayed there on and off (he made quick trips to London and Amsterdam in mid-August and Paris early in October) from late July until the end of October.

On 15 August Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) of Wunderlich & Co., New York, wrote that he liked Whistler's sketches of Dieppe: 'I admired those three Dieppe sketches (you know those I mean just commenced) and when you finish them, I should like to have one or all. They are very charming.' 2

Despite poor health, Whistler wanted to get away somewhere to paint. On 29 August he wrote from the Pavillon Madeleine to Inez Eleanor Addams (1874-1958), who was visiting Ireland:

'Tell me something more of your Coast - I should like to take away with me a sea piece perhaps - and here there is nothing but the wonderful air for the health I have been too impatient to wait for.' 3

Whistler told the artist Albert Ludovici, Jr (1852-1932):

'September & October are clearly the months for the sea -

I am just beginning to understanding the principle of these things - You know how I always reduce things to principles!

Only I can't stay much longer -

I could not help thinking of your two French painters who thought they had something new in Renoir! - and who looked with contempt upon le "vieux tableau"! -

"Plein air" indeed! - I should like to show you one or two little panels!' 4

The Pennells recorded that 'many small oils and water-colours were done before the bad weather drove him [Whistler] away' from Pourville. 5


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 516).

2: 15 August 1899, GUW #07318.

3: [29 August 1899], GUW #00022. Note that the sea piece is to be of Ireland not Pourville, see Grey and Gold: The Golden Bay, Ireland [YMSM 537], painted a year later.

4: [September/October 1899], GUW #08083.

5: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, pp. 212-13.

Last updated: 5th December 2020 by Margaret