The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 001
The Artist's Niece

The Artist's Niece

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1849
Collection: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow
Accession Number: GLAHA 46355
Medium: oil
Support: paper
Size: 8.0 x 7.5 cm (3 1/8 x 3")
Signature: none
Inscription: none
Frame: wood

Date

The Artist's Niece dates from 1849.

The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian
The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian

Whistler's niece Annie was born on 14 December 1848. She appears in this portrait to be under two years of age.

Shortly after her birth Whistler made a pencil drawing of her, and planned, as he told his mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), to do another:

'How you would like to see the Babie, dear mother, her hair has grown and is going to be of a pretty flaxen colour and Sis intends it to be curly … I began a sketch of her which Seymour [Haden] finished and made really very like her; when I have done a nice likeness all by myself, I shall send it to St Petersburg, that you may form some faint idea of little Annie before you see her.' 1

The result may be this portrait, painted in London in 1849 before Whistler returned to America with his family.

Images

The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian
The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian

Ma Nièce, 1849, The Hunterian
Ma Nièce, 1849, The Hunterian

Subject

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known. The sole recorded title is as follows:

Description

The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian
The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian

The head of a young child with curly shoulder-length blonde hair, against a bright blue background. Her eyes are closed and she looks rather lopsided. The portrait is unfinished.

Sitter

Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937) , later Mrs Charles Thynne.

Annie was the eldest daughter of the surgeon and etcher Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) and Whistler's half-sister, Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908).

Annie was born on 14 December 1848. Whistler told his mother: 'How you would like to see the Babie … her hair has grown and is going to be of a pretty flaxen colour and Sis intends it to be curly, so that she is to be the pretty Miss Haden.' 4

Ma Nièce, 1849, The Hunterian
Ma Nièce, 1849, The Hunterian

Whistler made a pencil sketch ('Ma Nièce' m0021) and planned to do another portrait, possibly this painting, before he returned to America. After his return to Europe in 1855, Annie posed for several later paintings including At the Piano y024 and Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room y034 and etchings including Annie Haden with Books [6] and Annie [7].

Although he was fond of them, after a quarrel between Whistler and Haden in 1867 it was difficult for Whistler to see his sister or her children.

Comments

A portrait, inscribed and signed 'To Annie.- Whistler', and now in the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, was lent by Jérôme Doucet to the Paris Memorial Exhibition of 1903 (cat. no. 31) as 'Portrait de Miss Annie Haden'; but neither the compilers of the 1980 catalogue, nor this, consider that the sitter was Annie, nor its author Whistler. 5

Technique

Technique

The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian
The Artist's Niece, 1849, The Hunterian

This is an unfinished sketch, freely painted with flicking, loose brush-strokes. It was painted on paper; the top of the sheet is unpainted.

Since there are no other known oils of this period it is difficult to be sure of its date or authenticity. Although its provenance is impeccable, it could well have been painted by another artist and given to Whistler or his mother.

Conservation History

Unknown. A vertical split is visible to left of her nose.

Frame

Dark wood, 48.4 x 35.6 x 1.2 cm.

History

Provenance

Because of the small scale and unfinished nature of this sketch, it would almost certainly have been set aside and not included in works to be sold at the time of Whistler's bankruptcy.

Exhibitions

It was not exhibited in Whistler's lifetime. It was first shown at the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in 1905.

By the terms of Miss R. Birnie Philip's gift to the University of Glasgow in 1935, the painting cannot be lent.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: J. Whistler to A. M. Whistler, [17] March 1849, GUW #06390; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, GLAHA 46005; 'Ma Nièce' m0021.

2: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 31).

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

4: J. Whistler to A. M. Whistler, [17] March 1849, GUW #06390.

5: National Museum of Western Art website at http://collection.nmwa.go.jp. YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 1).