The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 009
Whistler Smoking

Whistler Smoking

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1856/1860
Collection: Private Collection
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: wood
Size: 25.8 x 18.5 cm (10 1/4 x 7 1/4")
Signature: 'Whistler'
Inscription: none
Frame: wood

Date

Whistler Smoking probably dates from soon after Whistler's arrival in Paris in November 1855, possibly in 1856 or 1857.

Whistler Smoking, private collection
Whistler Smoking, private collection

However, Théodore Duret (1838-1927) suggested it was painted slightly later, between 1859 and 1860. 1

It is possible that this is identical with the Self-Portrait y008, which is said to have dated from 1856/1857.

Images

Whistler Smoking, private collection
Whistler Smoking, private collection

Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/95
Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/95

Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/96
Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/96

Subject

Titles

Suggested titles are as follows:

'Whistler Smoking' is the preferred title.

Description

Whistler Smoking, Private collection
Whistler Smoking, Private collection

A head and shoulders portrait in vertical format, showing a young man with dark, curly, bushy hair, and a neat dark moustache. He is in three-quarter view to left, with his hand holding a cigarette at left. He wears a dark jacket over a spotted cravat loosely tied round his neck. A flat, wide brimmed straw hat with a dark ribbon, sits on his head at a sharp angle from left to upper right.

Albert Eugene Gallatin (1882-1952) described it in 1913:

'Head and shoulders. Face, which is turned to left, is seen in three-quarters. A straw hat, about which is a grey ribbon, is perched upon the artist's long, black, curly hair. The painter wears a black coat, and about his neck is a loose black scarf with white spots. In the right hand, which is just indicated, is a cigarette; smoke issues from his mouth. The background of the portrait is dark. The face is rather carefully modelled, the rest of the picture freely painted.' 7

Sitter

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). This portrait may be the same as Self-Portrait y008.

In appearance Whistler looks a little older than his earliest etched self-portrait, Portrait of Whistler [5], which dates from 1857. Both show him smoking, despite dire warnings from his mother, who wrote to him in 1856:

'A sad warning of the evil effects of smoking I could tell you, but I forbear[,] you know my Son how I have tried to impress my boys to avoid every leading to vice or debauch. My daily prayer is that you may "keep to innocency." ' 8

Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/95
Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/95

Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/96
Carjat & Cie, J. McN. Whistler, 1864, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/96

Later photographs by Etienne Carjat (1828-1906) show Whistler with a much less bohemian appearance. 9

Comments

According to A. E. Gallatin, Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) refused to comment on the authenticity of this self portrait, but it was accepted by Gallatin and Théodore Duret (1838-1927):

'M. Theodore Duret, who viewed this portrait in my company in Paris, June, 1913, told me that in his opinion the painting was unquestionably from Whistler's brush. He put the date at about 1862. Mr. Joseph Pennell, to whom I showed a full-sized photograph of the portrait a month later, declined to express an opinion regarding its authenticity without seeing the original. He would place the date, judging by the artist's appearance, three years earlier than M. Duret. I regard the painting as being in all probability a work of the master and have therefore catalogued it as such.' 10

The Pennells condemned the portrait as 'a clumsy attempt to imitate Whistler in the Big Hat, as well as the etching of the same subject'. 11 However, they seem to have based their judgment on the published reproductions of the painting. In spite of uncertainties of style, this does seem to be a vivid self-portrait of Whistler in the late 1850s.

Technique

Technique

Whistler Smoking, private collection
Whistler Smoking, private collection

It is painted thickly and densely, in rich colours, with bold modelling. It was painted with brushes, with no trace of palette knife.

Gallatin noted: 'the face is rather carefully modelled, the rest of the picture freely painted.' 12

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Described by Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) as 'Whistler style, flat frame with dark brown wood, gilt edged slip' with the number '19890' stamped on the verso and a label, 'No. 93167 ... dientige ... Reinhard.' 13

History

Provenance

It is possible that this is the same painting as Self-Portrait y008, in which case it was once owned by H. Aubrée (d. ca 1879) in France, and in the family of Louis Aubrée (fl. 1870-1899) until at least 1899.

Exhibitions

It was not exhibited in Whistler's life time.

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: Duret 1904 [more], p. 15.

2: Duret 1904 [more], p. 7.

3: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, repr. f. p. 190.

4: Gallatin 1913 A [more], pp. 2-3, 17-18 (cat. no. 2).

5: Pennell 1921C [more], repr. f. p. 29.

6: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 9).

7: Gallatin 1913 A [more], pp. 17-18.

8: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 23 September 1856, GUW #06476.

9: See MacDonald 2015 [more], p. 1.

10: Gallatin 1913 A [more], pp. 2-3.

11: Pennell 1919 B [more], p. 52.

12: Gallatin 1913 A [more], pp. 17-18.

13: GUL WPP files.

14: Gallatin 1913 A [more], pp. 2-3, 17-18 (cat. no. 2).