Two titles have been suggested:
Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden , the title used in the 1980 catalogue, and which conforms to the style of other titles, is generally accepted.
However, since Whistler asserted that he had changed the portrait of Lady Eden to a portrait of Mrs Hale, the title is undeniably misleading!
This is a portrait of a seated woman, painted in horizontal format, in shades of brown. She is seated at right on an elaborate sofa, her body turned to left, her face looking at the viewer. There is the rough indication of a pot and foliage at the lower right corner. Panelling is visible on the wall behind her.
The original sitter was Sybil Frances Grey, Lady Eden (1867-1945), the daughter of Sir William Grey, a former Lt Governor of Bengal and Governor of Jamaica. A much admired Society beauty, in 1886 she married William Eden (1849-1915), second son of the sixth Baronet, who had succeeded his father in 1873.
George Moore (1852-1933) introduced the Edens to Whistler. The artist wrote, 'Upon the whole I think I prefer people who shoot - or fish - or play Hallma [sic] - to those who "paint very nicely indeed in water colours"! - But your friends the Edens are of course charming - and I shall be delighted to know them.' 3 Eden was a landowner, living at Windlestone, Ferry Hill, County Durham, a keen huntsman, traveller, collector, and watercolour painter, exhibiting regularly in London and Paris. In the army he had risen to the rank of Colonel. 4
The Edens had five sons, one of whom died at birth. They never divorced but eventually lived separate lives. Lady Eden died on 17 June 1945, aged seventy-eight.
Lady Eden was also painted by Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942) in 1896, and by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), whose portrait (now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, W1920-2-1) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1907. 5
An American lady, Margaret Curzon Hale, Mrs H. D. Hale (1872-1948) , posed for alterations made to Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden after Whistler refused to send the portrait to Sir William. At Whistler's request, she appeared in court beside Whistler, 'looking very pretty,' as the artist wrote to his wife. 6 A miniature portrait of Mrs Hale in 1917, Margie in White, by Laura Coombs Hills, is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (51.1933).
1: Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Champ de Mars, Paris, 1894 (cat. no. 1187).
Last updated: 21st November 2020 by Margaret