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

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A Corsican Child

A Corsican Child dates from February 1901. 1

It was painted in Ajaccio, Corsica, according to a label on the back written by Harold Wright (1885-1961), and based on information from Whistler's sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958). It was probably the painting referred to in a letter from Whistler to Miss Birnie Philip on 27 February 1901,

‘I staid on ... so that I might perhaps paint a head of a child or a lad that came ... well everything went against! ... It has rained for days ... and then inside it was impossible, for when the boy came to sit, out dribbled the wet sun and drove me crazy with his foolish reflections! Now Monsieur le Conservateur of the Museum here has lent me a corner of his atelier - well I was goose enough to rush into it with joy! - and of course I cannot possibly paint under his nose! - and yet I have been doing that very absurd thing quite hopelessly & uselessly - & bothered myself to death with little ragamuffins who are entirely too wild to sit!.' 2

In 1902 Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) of Detroit noted seeing a 'Head of girl called by Miss P[hilip] "The Ajaggio" ' (sic) in Whistler’s studio. 3 Freer may have been mistaken as to the sex of the child.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 544).

2: 25-27 February [1901], GUW #04793; MacInnes 1969 [more], at pp. 327, 335.

3: n.d., Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret