The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 029
Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2)

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2)

Artist: Formerly attributed to James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1857/1858
Collection: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: F1905.62a-b
Medium: oil
Support: wood
Size: 30.3 x 25.1 cm (12 x 9 7/8")
Signature: none
Inscription: none
Frame: modern

Date

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2) may date from between 1857 and 1859, but both its authenticity and date are doubtful.

Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

It is quite possible that it is by Chester Harding (1792-1866), in which case it could date from the previous decade.

Images

Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

Adolf Jebens, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian
Adolf Jebens, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian

Chester Harding, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian
Chester Harding, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian

C. G. Crehen, Portrait of G. W. Whistler, photograph of lithograph, GUL Whistler PH1/60
C. G. Crehen, Portrait of G. W. Whistler, photograph of lithograph, GUL Whistler PH1/60

Subject

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known. These are the only known variations:

'Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2)' is the generally accepted title. It is numbered (2) to distinguish it from another portrait of Whistler's father, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (1) y028.

Description

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

A head and chest portrait of a man, in vertical format. He has dark hair, and is seen in three-quarter view to left, but looking at the viewer. He wears a white starched shirt with modest collar, a broad black cravat and a black jacket, against a black background.

Sitter

George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), Whistler's father.

It may be that this was a copy of a photograph or painting of G. W. Whistler. The only reference to Whistler having attempted a portrait of his father was in 1859 – Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (1) y028.

C. G. Crehen, Portrait of G. W. Whistler, photograph of lithograph, GUL Whistler PH1/60
C. G. Crehen, Portrait of G. W. Whistler, photograph of lithograph, GUL Whistler PH1/60

Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2) could be remotely based on the portrait of Major Whistler by Charles G. Crehen (1829-after 1891), and therefore tentatively identified with Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (1) y028, but it varies from Crehen's portrait in several details. The sitter is facing a different way, his head is at a different angle, being seen more from above, he is smiling, and details of his suit are changed.

Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Anon., Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

Chester Harding, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian
Chester Harding, Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler, The Hunterian

A portrait by Chester Harding (1792-1866), George Washington Whistler, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5cm, came to the University of Glasgow (GLAHA 54134) with the bequest of Whistler's great-nephew Joseph Whistler Revillon (1886-1955) in 1955. 3 The Freer Gallery website comments:

'The Freer's oil portrait of Major Whistler most closely resembles another portrait, made by Chester Harding (1792-1866), and now in the collection at Glasgow University. From about 1840 until 1842, Major Whistler and Harding were neighbors in Massachusetts. Harding painted Major Whistler during this time. He also allowed his student W. S. Elwell to copy his portrait of the major. The Freer's portrait is not by Elwell. But Harding himself frequently made replicas of his own paintings, and it is possible that this portrait was executed by Harding rather than by the son of the sitter.' 4

Comments

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

There is some doubt as to the authenticity of this portrait. It is not wholly consistent with Whistler's work. 5

There is a reference to Whistler having done a 'copy' of some painting for William Richard ('Dick') Suydam Palmer (1834-1870) in 1857, but that was probably a copy of a picture in the Louvre or the Musée du Luxembourg. 6

Technique

Technique

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

It is carefully painted, with regular, even brushwork and fairly thin paint. The brushstrokes are precise and visible as separate strokes on details such as the facial features. The colouring is realistic and the modelling effective. It is definitely a highly professional work.

Conservation History

According to Freer Gallery of Art conservation records it was cleaned and surfaced in 1935 and 1951.

Frame

Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Major G. W. Whistler (2), Freer Gallery of Art

A modern copy of a Whistler-type reeded frame.

History

Provenance

Exhibitions

It does not seem to have been exhibited. By the terms of C. L. Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, 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

COLLECTION:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

On Chester Harding:

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: 9th Annual Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1904–1905 (cat. no. 308).

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat no. 29).

3: The Hunterian database online (acc. 2018).

4: Freer Gallery of Art website at www.asia.si.edu. This information comes from Curry 1984 [more], p. 101.

5: See also Curry 1984 [more], p. 101, who also questions the authenticity of the painting.

6: Possibly Copy after Ingres's 'Roger délivrant Angélique' y011 or Copy after Mignard's 'La Vierge à la grappe' y012.