The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 032
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides

Portrait of Luke A. Ionides

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1860
Collection: Private collection
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 40.6 x 30.4 cm (16 x 12")
Signature: none
Inscription: none
Frame: unknown


Portrait of Luke A. Ionides dates from 1860. 1

Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, Private collection
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, Private collection

According to the sitter, Lucas (Luke) Alexander Ionides (1837-1924), it was the praise given by the artist George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) to At the Piano y024 in 1859 that influenced his father, Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890), to commission this portrait shortly afterwards. 2 Luke Ionides stated that his portrait was 'only completed after a dozen sittings' in 1860. 3


Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, Private collection
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, Private collection

Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, photograph, 1980
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, photograph, 1980



Two titles have been suggested:

'Portrait of Luke A. Ionides' is the preferred title.


Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, private collection
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, private collection

A half length portrait in vertical format. It shows a young man with dark brown hair and a substantial beard and moustache. He is seated in three-quarter view to right, against a pale background.


Lucas (Luke) Alexander Ionides (1837-1924).

He was painted by George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), and Sir William Blake Richmond as well as by Whistler. 6


The Pennells compared it with At the Piano y024 and Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room y034 as showing the influence of Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877):

'Two other pictures of 1860 are the portrait of Mr. Luke Ionides with long, brown beard, and The Music Room. In both, the influence of the Louvre and Courbet is evident. The portrait has the heavy painting of At the Piano, though it is much more brilliant. But the other picture marks a tremendous advance.' 7



Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, private collection
Portrait of Luke A. Ionides, private collection

Luke Ionides described Whistler's method of painting:

'He would compose his colour on the palette, and put on some touch; then he would stand off, and re-compose his colour. It was almost like working in mosaic. He never, to my knowledge, made any studies of the sitter before beginning a portrait.' 8

It is painted thickly, with vigorous brushwork and with some areas of impasto, the paint applied with a palette knife as well as brush, showing, as Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) commented, that Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) 'was still a dominant influence.' 9

Conservation History

Meier-Graefe wrote of it in 1908 as having 'cracked as a result of loading the dark pigment on an ill-prepared ground.' 10 Similarly the Times in 1911 described it as 'an early work of great beauty and interest, but already falling into ruin.' 11 It has, however, since been restored.





According to the Pennells, it was offered for sale in 1905 to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) of Detroit, who declined it. 12


It was not exhibited in Whistler's lifetime.


Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905


Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Newspapers 1906-Present


On Luke Ionides and his family:




1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 32).

2: Ionides 1924 [more], at pp. 40-41.

3: Ibid.

4: 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. 89).

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 32).

6: Long, Christopher, ed., Ionides Genealogy, Family Group Sheet online.

7: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 89.

8: Ionides 1924 [more], at pp. 40-41. See also MacDonald, Margaret F., Joanna Dunn, and Joyce H. Townsend, 'Painting Joanna Hiffernan', in Margaret F. MacDonald (ed.), The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and Washington, 2020, pp. 33-45.

9: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 4).

10: Meier-Graefe 1908 [more], vol. 2, p. 204.

11: Times, 20 January 1911[more].

12: Pennell 1921C [more], p. 113.