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

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The Black Hat – Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip

The Black Hat – Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip dates from between 1900 and 1902. 1

According to the Pennells, on 14 July 1900 Whistler ‘showed us some of the things he has been doing lately – his portrait of Miss Philip in hat and boa close round her throat.' 2 It was probably in the summer of 1900 that the writer Annulet Andrews (1864-1944) (then Miss Ohl) visited Whistler’s studio in London and met the sitter, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958),

'… in that great barn of a London studio which you reach by an inclosed glass corridor, a great, gray, homely workshop it was ... Several people were there, among them his sister-in-law, Miss Philip, whose portrait he had just completed – a slim, sleek, thorough-bred English girl, in a glossy black dress, her hair and eyebrows of the same shining blackness. In the portrait she wore a picturesque black hat. The haughty, high-lifted head, the expression, treatment, arrangement, were more suggestive of Velasquez than any other Whistler portrait I have ever seen.'' 3

However, a note on the back of the stretcher says the portrait was painted in 1902 in Whistler's Fitzroy Street studio; this was recorded by the art dealer Harold Wright (1885-1961), and was based on information from the sitter, R. Birnie Philip. It was probably the ‘portrait of Miss Philip’ seen by the Pennells in Whistler’s studio on 24 April 1902. 4


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 535).

2: Pennell 1921C [more], pp. 77, 235.

3: Andrews 1904 [more], at p. 325.

4: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, pp. 279, 291.

Last updated: 25th November 2020 by Margaret