The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 022a
Rue des Buttes Montmartre

Rue des Buttes Montmartre

Artist: Formerly attributed to James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1859/1925
Collection: Worcester Art Museum
Accession Number: 1940.63
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 67.6 x 100.3 cm (26 5/8 x 39 1/2")
Signature: 'Whistler / Paris. 1859.'
Inscription: see above
Frame: unknown

Date

The Rue des Buttes Montmartre is dated 1859 on the canvas, but neither this date nor the signature are thought to be by Whistler.

Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum
Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum

Although Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) included it (without comment) in the 1960 retrospective of Whistler's work, Denys Sutton (1917-1991) cast doubt on the authenticity of the work in his review of the exhibition. 1

Images

Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum
Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum

Subject

Titles

The known title varies in punctuation, as follows:

The name of the street, and therefore the preferred title of this painting, is 'Rue des Buttes Montmartre'. There is no comma or bracket before Montmartre.

Description

Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum
Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum

A street scene in horizontal format. At left is a high garden wall and gate, with bare, ragged trees behind. A figure stands near the gate, beside the road, and further up the street, at left, is a lamp standard with hanging lantern. The unpaved street runs uphill, in the centre. It is bounded at right by buildings and a wall. Sunlight catches a house at the top of the hill, and also illuminates the foreground.

Site

Rue des Buttes Montmartre, near the Porte de Saint-Ouen, Paris 93400 (the street was named 'Rue des Buttes, Montmartre' in earlier publications, but there is no such place). At that time the hill of Montmartre was more or less in the country. This particular street is away from the more popular tourist areas, and the older buildings, wall, trees, etc, have been, or are being, demolished.

Technique

Technique

Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum
Rue des Buttes Montmartre, Worcester Art Museum

It was painted with loose, broad brushstrokes in the foreground, and careful, more precise brushstrokes on details, such as the trees, but is not typical of Whistler's known work.

This painting was omitted from the 1980 catalogue raisonné and the authors of the current catalogue do not believe that there are good reasons to accept the attribution to Whistler.

The subject and technique suggest a later work. For instance, it is more like the work of Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), or, as Denys Sutton (1917-1991) commented, a 'smudged Raffaëlli':

'The establishment of the canon of Whistler's work is ever a tricky business … some doubts may be expressed concerning Rue des Buttes, Montmartre … The quality of this picture, strangely like a sort of smudged Raffaëlli, is demonstrably inferior to that of the Head of an Old Man Smoking … or the Head of a Peasant Woman … The signature looks rather odd; moreover no record of this painting occurs in Whistler literature; that Sickert gave it a certificate is not of much consequence. The two men only met in 1882 and unless one assumes that they actually discussed the painting ion question, which is unlikely, the younger man's knowledge of the master's early phase would have been scant; and Sickert's own ideas on expertise were vague enough.' 4

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Unknown.

History

Provenance

There is no known record of this painting before 1923, when it went to auction. 5 In 1925 Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) wrote a certificate of authenticity for it. Unfortunately Sickert was not a reliable witness, particularly writing some 22 years after the artist's death, regarding a painting supposedly painted when Sickert himself was one year old.

Exhibitions

There is no record of an exhibition before 1947, although it may well have been on view in London in the mid 1920s.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

EXHIBITION:

SALE:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 3) as 'Rue des Buttes, Montmartre'. Sutton 1960b [more].

2: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 3).

3: Worcester Museum website at https://worcester.emuseum.com.

4: Sutton 1960b [more]. See, for instance, Raffaëlli's 'Street in a Rural Village', 1882, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pau, and Utrillo's Rue du Mont-Cenis, 1914, Musée de l'Orangerie. Sutton comapared it to Head of an Old Man Smoking y025 and Head of a Peasant Woman y021. There is actually some doubt as to the authenticity of the latter, but it is, as Sutton stated, well painted.

5: Art Prices Current, vol. 10, 1922, no. 6288.