The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 038
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1861-1863, 1872
Collection: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: Harris Whittemore Collection 1943.6.2
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 213 x 107.9 cm (83 7/8 x 42 1/2")
Signature: 'Whistler, 1862'
Inscription: see above
Frame: Flat Whistler, painted waves and butterfly, 1862, modified 1875


Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl was probably started in 1861, signed in 1862, repaired and probably reworked in 1872. 1

1861: From 18 November 1861 to 10 March 1862, Whistler hired an easel from P. Hardy-Alan (fl. 1860-1903), 1 rue Childebert, près St-Germain-des-Prés. 2 In December 1861, Whistler also bought a 2.15 × 1.09 metre stretcher and had it fitted to a canvas in his studio in the Boulevard Pigalle ('1 chassis à Clefs, de 2 met.15 - 1m.09 … & Tenture chez lui Bd. Pigale, plus pièce mis à Tabl.'). 3 These were probably for Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl.

1862: The Pennells state that '[Joanna Hiffernan] was with him in France in 1861-2, going to Paris in the winter to give him sittings for the big White Girl, which he had begun and was painting in a studio he took for the purpose in the Boulevard des Batignolles, and hung, it is said, all in white.' 4 Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) also remembered Whistler as working on 'sa Fille Blanche à Paris Boulevard des Batignolles' in 1862. 5

On 8 January 1862, according to Miss Chapman, 'Jimmy Whistler came to call on us at the Hotel du bon Lafontaine. He was then working in Paris and painting the big "White girl"!' 6

Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), writing in February 1862, reported that Whistler, after returning from Brittany, 'had begun a new painting in Paris, & was hard at work' but had to return to London on the death of a friend. 7 Whistler told George du Maurier (1834-1896) that he had been working on the painting all winter from eight every the morning, and that it was nearly finished. He described it as showing the figure 'standing against a window which filters the light through a transparent white muslin curtain – but the figure receives a strong light from the right and therefore the picture barring the red hair is one gorgeous mass of brilliant white.' 8

By 22 February Whistler was back in Paris, and was visited at 18 Boulevard Pigalle by the American art dealer George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909). Lucas saw the artist at intervals until 1 April 1862 when he noted in his diary, 'To see Whistler who packed his picture of the "femme Blanche".' 9

Whistler's mother congratulated him on completing his work, 'how pleased I am to hear that you finished the two in time to present at the Royal Academy. Your mother is satisfied even if they are not hung this year.' 10 The painting was rejected by the Royal Academy. Fantin-Latour was stunned to hear of its rejection, and wrote to Edwin Edwards (1823-1879): 'Je ne sais pourquoi l'on a refusé le tableau de Whistler, il y avait de grandes qualités. Je l'ai vu travaillant et l'ai suivi pendant tous les progrès. Whistler m'a montré un coté que je ne lui connaissais pas, la persistance, le volonté.' 11

It was shown instead at a recently opened gallery at 14 Berners Street, which was run by Matthew Somerville Morgan (1839-1890).

According to the Pennells, 'He fell ill before the end of the winter. Miss Chapman says he was poisoned by the white lead he used in the picture. Her brother, a doctor, recommended a journey to the Pyrenees.' 12 In the Basses Pyrenees, Whistler stayed in Guéthary, whence in November 1862 he wrote to Fantin-Latour that he ought to return to London to 'finir … la Fille blanche pour le salon à Paris.' 13 In December, Whistler and the painting were in London, but Whistler still planned to 'carry the White Girl to the Salon.' 14

1863: On Monday 16 March Whistler told G. A. Lucas that he was 'touching the painting up a little' for the Salon, and likewise, on 20 March, told James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), 'I am finishing The White Girl for the Salon in Paris and it ought to go off on Monday - so that I should be painting at it until late in the evening.' 15 But instead he showed the painting in The Artists' and Amateur's Conversazione at Willis's Rooms in St James Square on Thursday, 26 March. He proposed to take the canvas to Paris on the following Sunday, and had asked if he could unpack and frame it in Fantin-Latour's studio: 'J'apporte "La Fille Blanche" - ! puis-je dérouler ma toile et l'encadrer dans ton atelier, que nous puissions la voir ensemble avant de l'envoyer au Salon?' 16 On 1 May Fantin-Latour reported that it had been rejected at the Salon; instead, it was shown in the Salon des Refusés. 17

1864: P. Hardy-Alan (fl. 1860-1903) retained the picture in Paris until at least February 1864 as surety for certain of Whistler's debts, although these, according to Whistler, were 'une bagatelle' that he would settle easily when he came to Paris. 18

1866: The painting was finally bought by Whistler's half-brother, George William Whistler (1822-1869), who paid him £250 in two instalments but did not actually receive it. 19

1867: Instead, 'The White Girl' was exhibited in the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. G. A. Lucas had trouble organising the return of Whistler's pictures to London but finally arranged it on 3 December. 20

1868: G. W. Whistler wrote from St Petersburg to Whistler: 'I hope you will find time before next Spring to finish my picture - for if we remain I shall wish it here, & if not I shall want it in the States next year.' 21

1869: G. W. Whistler died in Brighton, England, on 24 December 1869.

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on  Albumen print, GUL PH4/4
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on Albumen print, GUL PH4/4

1872: The picture had been damaged, and from March to April Whistler worked on 'my White Girl', but failed to complete repairs in time to send it to an International Exhibition in London. 22 G. W. Whistler's family returned to Baltimore in the autumn.

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1875: By August Whistler had attended to the frame and the picture was finally sent to America. 23 G. W. Whistler's widow died on 25 September 1875, and rights of ownership passed to their son, Thomas Delano Whistler (1857-1921).


Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The Woman in White, pen, 1862, Wadsworth Athenaeum
The Woman in White, pen, 1862, Wadsworth Athenaeum

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, reproduction, 1879
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, reproduction, 1879

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on  Albumen print, GUL PH4/4
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on Albumen print, GUL PH4/4

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on  Albumen print, GUL PH4/4
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on Albumen print, GUL PH4/4

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, Silver gelatin print, GUL PH4/3
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, Silver gelatin print, GUL PH4/3

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, frame detail
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, frame detail

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/2
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/2

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/13
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/13

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/14
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/14

J. B. Greuze, La Cruche cassée, Musée du Louvre
J. B. Greuze, La Cruche cassée, Musée du Louvre



Several titles have been suggested:

'Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl' is the preferred title.

It is generally regarded as the first and most celebrated of Whistler's 'Symphonies in White' although it was never in fact exhibited with such a title during Whistler's lifetime.

When it was exhibited at Morgan's Gallery in Berners Street, London, in 1862, and publicised as 'The Woman in White', Whistler objected publicly to that title, stating that the painting was not an illustration of the novel of that name by Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), as implied by the art critic of The Athenaeum – probably Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907). Whistler wrote to the editor of The Athenaeum, Frederick Dixon (d. 1923):

'The Proprietors of the Berners Street Gallery have, without my sanction, called my picture "The Woman in White." I had no intention whatsoever of illustrating Mr. Wilkie Collins's novel; it so happens, indeed, that I have never read it. My painting simply represents a girl dressed in white standing in front of a white curtain.' 50

The gallery manager, Frederick Buckstone (1837-1884), disputed Whistler's claim, saying 'Mr. Whistler was well aware of his picture being advertised as "The Woman in White", and was pleased with the name', and adding:

'There was no intention, to mislead the public by the supposition that it referred to the heroine of Mr. Wilkie Collins's novel; but being the figure of a female attired in white, with a white background, with which no-colour the artist has produced some original effects, the picture was called "The Woman in White," simply because it could not be called "The Woman in Black," or any other colour.' 51

Paul Mantz (1821-1895), writing in 1863, was the first critic to describe it as a 'Symphonie du blanc'. 52

It was not until after the exhibition of Symphony in White, No. 3 y061 in 1867 that the three 'Symphonies' acquired their definitive titles. The original 'White Girl', Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, was not actually exhibited under that title during Whistler's lifetime. Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052 was only exhibited with that title in 1892. A smaller painting, The White Symphony: Three Girls y087, exhibited under the title 'Symphony in White and Red' in 1874, did not, apparently, qualify for inclusion in the numbered sequence.


Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

A full length portrait, showing a woman with long dark red hair, clad in a white dress. The dress has a close fitting bodice with a high neck, and narrow sleeves with a puff at the shoulder. She is in slightly three-quarter view to left, and her right hand is hidden, while her left hand (with a wedding ring just visible) hangs at her side, holding a wilting flower. She is standing in front of a white curtain, on a pale buff bear-skin laid on a patterned blue carpet.

Note: the bear-skin has sometimes been interpreted as a wolf-skin (for instance in Baltimore, when it was first exhibited).


Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886), Whistler's partner and chief model throughout the 1860s, who maintained close links with the artist until her death.

In particular, she posed in white for A White Note y044, Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052, Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, The Artist's Studio y062, and The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio) y063. 53

Other models posed for Whistler's later White Girls (Harmony in White and Blue y126, Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander y129, Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour y131, Arrangement in White and Black y185, and possibly Portrait of Maud Franklin y094).


An influential interpretation of the subject was made early by Jules Antoine Castagnary (1830-1888) in 1863, when he stated that he was sure it was not a demonstration of Whistler's painterly skills in painting white on white ('Un tour de force de votre métier de peintre, consistant à enlever des blancs sur des blancs'). Instead he suggested that the portrait represented a more important ('plus élevé') subject: a woman on the morning after her wedding ('lendemain de l'épousée'), amazed by her change from virgin to lawfully married wife.

He registered, as clues, her wide-eyed gaze and flowing hair, the curtain, behind which the husband was assumed to be asleep, and the deflowering implied by the falling petals. Finally, he drew a comparison with Greuze's painting 'la Cruche cassée ou la Jeune fille pleurant son oiseau mort', which Denis Diderot (1713-1784) had interpreted as a girl seduced by a lover. 54

J. B. Greuze, La Cruche cassée, 1871, Musée du Louvre
J. B. Greuze, La Cruche cassée, 1871, Musée du Louvre

Curiously, Whistler had painted a Copy after Greuze's 'La Cruche cassée' y014 in 1857. The original was a popular work by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Whistler's copy has not been located, and, although it is not known if the painting was chosen by him or his client, it is probable that the image remained part of Whistler's visual memory-bank.

A wide range of sources have been suggested as possible inspiration for the figure of 'The White Girl'. Elizabeth Prettejohn suggests comparisons with the Virgin Mary in Immaculate Conception by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (ca 1678, Museo del Prado) which was then in the Louvre (and disliked by Whistler), and the secular, sexually ambivalent figure of Pierrot (Le Grand Gilles) (1718-19, Musée du Louvre) by Jean-Antoine Watteau. 55 Margaret MacDonald and Charles Brock discuss these and other possible sources, including recent paintings, such as George Frederick Watts’s statuesque Portrait of Sophia Dalrymple Watts Gallery); a specifically Christian subject, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Ecce Ancilla Domini!” (The Annunciation) (Tate Britain); and a moral, symbolic figure, Joseph Durham's statuette Chastity, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1860. 56



Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, reproduction, 1879?
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, reproduction, 1879?

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on  Albumen print, GUL Whistler PH4/4
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on Albumen print, GUL Whistler PH4/4

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Whistler worked on 'The White Girl' at intervals from 1861 until 1875. It is apparent that even after G. W. Whistler had paid for the picture in 1866, Whistler was reluctant to part with it. There is evidence to show that Whistler worked on the picture, for one reason or another, until it was sent to America in 1875.

In February 1862, Whistler described the picture to George du Maurier as showing the woman 'standing against a window which filters the light through a transparent white muslin curtain – but the figure receives a strong light from the right and therefore the picture barring the red hair is one gorgeous mass of brilliant white.' 57 The light does indeed come from the right but it is not particularly 'strong'; thus the description may reflect an early stage of the composition.

Jules Antoine Castagnary (1830-1888) in 1863 described the carpet as 'tapis blanc à peine nuancé de bleu' (white a little modified with blue). 58 On the other hand, Paul Mantz suggested that there was too much blue in the carpet on which the model stood, but in 1867 he revised his opinion, saying that he found the touches of blue charming. 59

Mantz's comments on the painting in 1863 compared to those of 1867 suggests that changes might have taken place between these dates. In 1863 Mantz described the model as a charming apparition, though not pretty, but by 1867 he found her face 'd'une laideur insupportable.' 60 He also (by 1867) thought that the face was painted with too coarse a brush (he may have meant with rough brushstrokes) but in its present state it appears smoothly painted: it is likely that this particular change took place in the early 1870s. 61 In 1863 Mantz also described the flower as having no petals, but he may simply not have seen them since the picture was hung quite high up. Castagnary also mentioned that the model held 'une fleur blanche effeuillée', which implies some petals had fallen. 62

Echoing Mantz's description of the model as a charming apparition, other reviewers in 1863 described her as 'a spirit, a medium', and the painting as a poetic vision. Fernand Desnoyers went so far as to write that the model had a tormented (but charming) expression. 63 Castagnary described the model in 1863 as 'la narine émue, l'œil dilaté, les cheveux tombants', suggesting a much more passionate appearance than the 'vacant stare' described by one critic in 1867. 64

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, photograph, 1860s
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, photograph, 1860s

An early photograph of the painting by Elliott & Fry, signed on the mount by Whistler about 1870, is in the Avery Collection, New York Public Library, and is reproduced above. This photograph, which may have been used as a source for the 1879 engraving by Timothy Cole (1852-1931), differs from Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl as it is today in the area of the face and hands. It shows a thinner face and smaller mouth, larger eyes with a more wistful expression, while the hair to the left of the head is more abundant and curly. In addition the cuffs at the wrists are striped, and the hand holding the lily is more slender, not foreshortened, with the thumb hidden from view.

Apparently by 1867 there were aspects of the painting that disturbed the artist, for he wrote to Fantin-Latour deploring the influence of Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), and citing several paictures, including this, for self-criticism:

'Courbet! et son influence a été dégoutant! … C'est que ce damné Realisme faisait apel immediate à ma vanité de peintre! et se moquant de toutes les traditions criait tout haut, avec l'assurance de l'ignorance "Vive la Nature!!" la nature! Mon cher ce cri là a été un grand malheur pour moi! - Où pouvait on trouver un apotre plus pret à accepter cette théorie, si commode pour lui! ce calmant pour toute inquietude! ... il n'avait plus qu'à ouvrir ses yeux et peindre ce qui se trouvait devant lui! ... Et l'on a vu ... La Fille blanche - … des toiles enfin produit par un polisson qui se gonflait de vanité de pouvoir montrer aux peintres des dons splendides - des qualités qui ne demandaient qu'une education sevère pour faire de leur possesseur un maitre au moment qu'il est - et non un écolier débauché.'

Translated: 'Courbet! and his influence was odious! … That damned Realism made an immediate appeal to my vanity as a painter! and mocking all tradition cried out loud, with all the confidence of ignorance, "Long live Nature!!" nature! My dear fellow, that cry was a great misfortune for me! - Where could you have found an apostle more ready to accept this theory, so appealing to him! this remedy for all disquiet! ... All he had to do was to open his eyes and paint what was there in front of him! … And then people went to see it! And they saw … the White Girl, … canvases produced by a nobody puffed up with pride at showing off his splendid gifts to other painters - qualities which only required strict education to make their owner the master he really is - not a degenerate student.' 65

As already mentioned, Paul Mantz criticised the painting in 1867, saying 'la tête est d'une laideur insupportable'. 66 At some time after this, Whistler apparently repainted the face and hands. X-rays of the face and hands show that these areas have been heavily reworked and also reveal that the canvas was once damaged underneath the right eye. Whistler had the picture in his hands until 1875, but it seems likely that the repair and repainting occurred in the spring of 1872 when Whistler described it as an 'unlucky painting' to Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), and was working on the picture in the misplaced hope of sending it to the International Exhibition of 1872. 67 As a result of the alterations made to them, the hand and face are smooth and shiny.

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on  Albumen print, GUL Whistler PH4/4
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, wash on Albumen print, GUL Whistler PH4/4

A second, uninscribed, photograph in Glasgow University Library shows the picture in what may be yet another state: this is difficult to establish because at an unknown date Whistler worked over the photograph with watercolour, making the neck appear longer, the eyes and mouth larger, and adding more hair. It is possible that the Glasgow photograph represents a stage in the repainting of the 'White Girl' in 1872. 68


Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

The canvas is very coarse, although the grain can only be seen on the thinner, more dryly painted, areas of the skirt. The skirt was originally about 100 mm shorter, and extended about 75 mm further on the right, to the edge of the canvas. The hand was originally placed further down. The bearskin was originally smaller and has been extended over the carpet on the left. There has also been some streaky reworking of her foot, and the outline of her cuff on the left. 69

The whole painting shows a variety of techniques and is painted fairly thickly, particularly on the left at the hem of the skirt, and in the shadows on the curtain. The pattern on the curtain is painted neatly with a small square brush, 7 mm wide, the strokes standing out like a mosaic. The broader shadows are painted with a wider square brush, 9 mm, in flatter, wildly crisscrossing strokes. Small round brushes, only 4 mm wide, were used on the blue carpet and the rug, with dots of blue carried from the carpet into the animal's head. A palette knife also appears to have been used, on the flowers on the carpet.

Malcolm Charles Salaman (1855-1940), in response to a letter to the Court and Society Review, wrote commending Whistler's 'modelling':

'In the first place, it is that subtlety of modelling which is so noteworthy a feature in all Mr. Whistler's great works … , which have established his reputation at home and abroad, from the famous 'White Girl' to the pictures of the present time.' 70

Conservation History

The picture was damaged in 1872. Whistler explained to Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), 'The White Girl cannot leave the Studio tomorrow … But the picture is now all right', adding, 'If I could possibly have forseen the delay that has been brought about by repairing this picture, I should certainly never have made a proposal that has I fear caused you all so very much trouble.' 71 But the picture was clearly not 'all right', and he wrote, apologising, 'I find at the end of this days [sic] work that I can scarcely hope to have my White Girl ready for Saturday ... I am very sorry that it should not this year be exhibited but I am afraid that it is impossible.' 72 He had to exhibit Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052 instead.


Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, frame detail
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, frame detail

Whistler did not decorate or sign the frame until the early or mid-1870s. This could have been in 1872 when Whistler planned to exhibit it in London, but more likely in the autumn of 1875 before sending the picture to America. At that time he told Frances Leyland (1834-1910), 'the White Girl's frame has not been neglected - I suppose that she will leave for her future home early this next week.' 74

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/14
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/14

This photograph shows the framed picture prominently displayed at the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in Boston in 1904.



At the time of the Salon des Refusés in 1863 the painting interested several collectors, including, according to Etienne Joseph Théophile Thoré (1807-1869), the critic Francois Arsène Housset (1815-1896). 75 P. Hardy-Alan (fl. 1860-1903) told Whistler that someone was interested in buying 'la fille blanche' and the artist asked Fantin-Latour to try and find out who this was, saying, 'j'aimerais bien la vendre à Paris.' 76 Whistler told Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904): 'You will perhaps be pleased to hear that the "White Girl" is a real success in Paris - and already I have had a letter to know if it may be possessed for gold!', and he added, 'Jo says many things aimables - and if ever I lent her to anyone to paint, it should certainly be to you mon ami.' 77

However, it was not until late 1866 that the painting was finally bought by Whistler's step-brother, who obviously cared very much about how he was to hang it, as well as its condition:

'I received two days ago your letter of the 29th Nov. & in this you will find a draft for £200. - which with the £50. - sent a few weeks since will pay you for the White Girl. I dont much like its going to the Exposition, I fear it will be injured, or lost. How about its size? the very extreme length my rooms will afford is 8. feet. if the picture is longer I shall be unable to hang it except in the small blue room, between dining & large salon … & the light falls upon the left side as you look at it if hung in this small room.' 78

Despite this objection, Whistler did exhibit it at the Exposition Universelle. Again, in 1868, George wrote from St Petersburg, 'I hope you will find time before next Spring to finish my picture'. 79 In fact Whistler never sent it to his brother; it was his nephew, Thomas Delano Whistler (1857-1921), who eventually received it, and who later sold it. In November 1894, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) asked if the painting was worth £1500.0.0, and in January of the following year told Whistler that it was for sale: ' "The White Girl" is for sale, but I have not heard the price asked. I am under the impression that $15,000 is demanded, but what would be accepted by the owner is another matter. No one here takes the amount seriously as far as I can learn.' 80 In March 1896 Kennedy reported, 'I hear that Tom Whistler has sold the White Girl to a Mass. man', but in fact it was to a Connecticut man: H. Whittemore of Naugatuck, who had bought it through Boussod, Valadon & Co., New York, on 28 February 1896, for $6500. 81

Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854 or 1855-d. 1920) told Whistler that he had tried to dissuade 'that silly Tom' from selling, 'begged him not to sell the picture - tried my best to make him understand the wonder of it & the honor it was to own such a work, to pass it down as an heirloom.' 82 Whistler drafted an acid letter to his nephew:

'Now that you too in your turn, have sold so happily "the White Girl", and so completely rid your family of all future [participation] in the tradition of your Fathers brother, I do not, for the life of me, see how I could, by any ordinary intercourse, supply affection at the enthusiastic rate this last excellent commercial transaction seems to have evolved.' 83

Meanwhile, H. Whittemore had immediately sold it to his father, John Howard Whittemore (1837-1910), in May 1897.

Apparently the painting was also considered for purchase for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the proposal failed, as the New-York-based artist Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) explained to Whistler, because Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) 'said that at that time (which was only three or four years ago.) that better pictures of Mr W. could be had cheaper & that he was now aware that he had made a mistake.' 84

On J. H. Whittemore's death in 1910 it became the property of the J. H. Whittemore Co., with a life interest to Gertrude Buckingham Whittemore (1874-1941). On her death it went on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., and was presented to that Gallery in 1943 by the J. H. Whittemore Company. 85


1862, LONDON:

Whistler regarded Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl as an important picture, which he hoped would find official recognition, first in London and then in Paris. The sitter, Joanna Hiffernan, wrote that before being sent to the Royal Academy, it was shown to their friends including John Everett Millais (1829-1896):

'[T]he W[h]ite Girl has made a great sensation - for and against. Some stupid painters dont understand it at all while Millais for instance thinks it spleandid, [sic] more like Titian and those old swells than anything he [h]as seen - but Jim says that for all that, [perhaps] the old duffers may refuse it altogether.' 86

Unfortunately Whistler was right and the 'duffers' did indeed reject it. Some years later, the circumstances of finding the painting rejected were described by Whistler to the American artist Harper Pennington:

'I went on Varnishing Day, to see where they had put her. She was not in the first room, nor the second, nor the third - I felt a little anxious - but I wandered on, and on, and on, through room after room, and when I came to the last of them I knew she was rejected. Still, I thought I might have missed her, somewhere in the crowd of pictures; so I went all over them again, growing positively sick. And then I went downstairs and poked about until I found her leaning against a wall … and I knew that she was beautiful and was consoled.' 87

' "Ye Whyte Ladye" 'was shown instead in a small gallery in Berners Street, described by Whistler as 'a stunning place', run by Matthew Somerville Morgan (1839-1890). 88 The Lady's Own Paper of 5 July 1862 considered that 'The Woman in White', rejected by the Royal Academy, was the 'most prominent' work in the Berners Street exhibition. Although Whistler objected to the title 'The Woman in White' given to it in the gallery, he was pleased by the effect which the picture created. It attracted a certain amount of publicity, partly generated by Whistler.

The Woman in White, pen, Wadsworth Athenaeum
The Woman in White, pen, Wadsworth Athenaeum

He sketched a bill-board advertising the painting – 'The Woman in White' m0303 – and wrote to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) describing it:

' "The White Girl" was refused at the Academy where they only hung the Brittany Sea piece and the Thames Ice Sketch! … Nothing daunted I am now exhibiting the White Child at another exposition where she shows herself proudly to all London! that is to all London who goes to see her! She looks grandly in her frame and creates an excitement in the Artistic World here ... In the catalogue of this exhibition it is marked

"Rejected at the Academy"

What do you say to that! isn't that the way to fight 'em! Besides which it is affiched all over the Town as

[drawing] Whistler's Extraordinary picture the WOMAN IN WHITE.

That is done of course by the Directors but certainly it is waging an open war with the Academy, eh?' 89


According to William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), 'The Woman in White' was shown at The Artists' and Amateurs' Conversazione, in Willis's Rooms (the old Almack's Assembly Rooms in St James Square), on 26 March 1863. 90

Whistler had already written to the patient George A. Lucas in Paris, expressing hopes for its success:

'I am going to send the "White Girl," to the exhibition there and see if better luck awaits it and whether it may not be by chance accepted by the Jury -

Do receive it for me and see it safely into the Palais de L'Industrie and make me more grateful than ever for the jolly lot of trouble you have taken for me -

I have set my heart upon this succeeding, and it would be a crusher for the Royal Academy here, if what they refused were received at the Salon in Paris and thought well of - so my dear Lucas let us do all we can to succeed. I am touching the painting up a little, so that it will be fresh when it reaches the Custom House and therefore I beg above all things that you will meet it and prevent any harm coming to it when they open the Case - … I shall of course write when I send it, and by what agency so that you can warn the Company at their office to let you know directly the case arrives so that you may be by, when opened, and from the Custom House you might have the Picture taken directly to the Palais de L'industrie without bringing it home or any further trouble - In your answer send me the printed forms necessary to be filled up for the "Salon".' 91

It is to be hoped that Lucas enjoyed Whistler's suggestion that this would cause no 'further trouble'! Furthermore, Whistler told Fantin-Latour that, if rejected, it should be shown at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. 92 However, when it was rejected at the Salon, Whistler cancelled this authorisation so that the 'Dame blanche' could be shown in the Salon des Refusés in Paris instead. 93 'The White Girl' was among many works rejected by the tradition-bound jury of the Paris Salon. So many paintings were rejected, and there was such an outcry, that Napoleon III invited artists who had been rejected to show their paintings in a 'Salon des Refusés'. The exhibition triggered much controversy and publicity. 94 Fantin-Latour sent Whistler a vivid account of the furore, in his distinctive literary style:

'[L]e Jury très sévère refusant tout ce qui n'était pas dans ces idées … de telle façon que le mecontement [sic] était général. alors L'Empereur va au palais de L'industrie veut voir les tableaux refusées, les regardent et ordonne d'exposer tous les tableaux refusées!! quel coup d'état, les tableaux jujé d'un coté, les refusées de l'autre dans le même palais. on laisse libre ceux qui sont refusées de retirer leurs tableaux,

Ton tableau est refusées, tes Eaux fortes reçues … ton refus et a été assez curieux et prouve que malgré tout l'on s'occupe beaucoup des gens qui font la Peinture a leurs guise. le fils ma dit qu'il a Vu devant ta toile (avant le jugement) Mr de Chenevieres et Mr de Nieuwerkerke qui disaient il a exposé deja ici, et on l'a refusé son tableau était très bien, et Mr de Nieuwekerke voyant les Eaux fortes a dit quil en avait, et trouvait cela superbe et lorsqu'il a passé devant le Jury ces deux messieu[r]s l'on beaucoup defendu et la derniere chose qui etait dite la est, ces Messieurs ne la trouve pas plaisante. cela a été très Durs et très difficile a refuser

il faut laisser ce tableau parmi tous les tableaux refusés nous le ferons tous. On dit que les meilleures choses seront bien placées et exposée ensemble, et certainement l'on s'occuperas de te bien placer, l'administration est obligé de s'occuper de cela avec soin, …

Manet est refusé completement et l'on ne parle que de lui dans ce moment vraiment cela est degoutant le refus il y a un portrait vraiment très bien et qui sera très bon pour lui au salon des refusés Bracquemond completement refusé … Astruc fait un salon journal. Oh viens donc à Paris dans ce mois, il y a tant à causé, ces deux Salons cela ne c'est jamais vue.' 95

Translation: 'The Jury [was] very strict rejecting everything that did not conform to its ideas … to such an extent that there was general dissatisfaction. then the Emperor goes to the palais de L'industrie wants to see the rejected pictures, looks at them and decrees that all the rejected pictures should be exhibited!! what a coup d'etat, the accepted pictures on one side, the rejects on the other in the same building. those who have been rejected are free to withdraw their pictures.

Your picture was rejected, your Etchings accepted … your rejected painting was quite strange and proves that in spite of everything people who do paintings in their own way are receiving careful consideration. The son told me that he saw Mr de Chenevieres and Mr de Nieuwerkerke in front of your canvas (before the judging) who were saying he has already exhibited here, and he was rejected [,] his picture was very good, and Mr de Nieuwekerke on seeing the Etchings said that he had some, and thought it was superb and when it went before the Jury these two gentlemen strongly defended it and the last thing said there was, these Gentlemen do not find it pleasing. that was very Hard and very difficult to reject

you must leave this picture amongst all the rejected pictures we are all doing the same. They say that the best things will be well placed and exhibited together, and certainly they are going to ensure that you are well placed, the administration is obliged to deal carefully with that, …

Manet was completely rejected and all the talk is about him at the moment really the rejection is disgusting there is a really good portrait which will be very good for him at the salon of rejects[,] Bracquemond completely rejected, ... Astruc is doing a newspaper for the salon. Oh do come to Paris this month, there is so much to discuss, these two Salons there has never been anything like it.'

The Salon des Refusés opened at the Palais des Champs-Elysées on 15 May 1863. Whistler's 'Dame blanche' hung in the same room as several paintings by Edouard Manet (1832-1883), including Déjeuner sur l'herbe (then called 'Le Bain' ). 96 Critics writing about the Salon des Refusés agreed that the paintings of Manet and Whistler were the 'succès de scandale' of the exhibition. Whistler pressed Fantin-Latour to obtain press cuttings for him: 'Les journaux doivent encore parler de nous - envoies donc quelques uns - le Figaro de Graham doit avoir été bien sur La Fille Blanche - et la Gazette des beaux Arts - et Teophile [sic] Gautier et tout ça.' 97 Fantin reported that 'le fameux Graham c'est refroidi il n'y a pas eu d'articles pour les Refusées il a dit je n'ai plus de temps.' 98 However, eventually, on 16 July 1863, Arthur Stevens (1825-1899) wrote favourably in Le Figaro: 'Je considère ce tableau comme l'une des oeuvres les plus saisissantes de l'Exposition, bien qu'il se trouve dans la salle des refusés, circonstance évidemment due à une inadvertence du jury.'

Both Edmond Duranty (1833-1880) in his 1872 novel Le Peintre Louis Martin, and Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola (1840-1902) in L'Œuvre (1886) introduced incidents based on the reception given to Manet's and Whistler's pictures in Paris. 99

Whistler himself described the impact of the picture: ' "The White Girl" (Symphony in White No. 1). Paris - most notorious'. 100 This was a slight exaggeration: according to Fantin-Latour, writing to Whistler on the opening day of the Salon des Refusés in 1863, the painting had been hung by M. de Tourmeline, director of the Musée du Luxembourg and was much admired:

'[T]e voila celèbre! ton tableaux est très bien placé, tout le monde le voit - tu as le plus grand succès. … Nous trouvions les blancs très bien ils sont superbe, a la distance (le plus grand juje) ils fonts très bien tu ne peux t'imaginer le rideau le succès est un succès de distingtion tous le trouve très fin, très distingué. Courbet appelle ton tableau une apparition, du spiritisme et (cela l'embête) il dit c'est bien (cela l'embête lui qui à fait mauvais). Baudelaire trouve cela charmant, charmant, Exquise delicatesse dit-il, Legros, Manet, Bracquemond de Balleroy, … trouve cela très bien. (Mr de Tournemine t'a fait placer lui même) il est le directeur du Musée du Luxembourg. J'ai été très heureux de voir toutes les fois que j'entrais dans la salle un attroupement autour de ton tableau, hier pendant que l'on vermissait j'y ai Vu toute l'administration. Viens vite ici, c'est assez interessant pour toi, car j'oublie, je ne saurais dire combien cela est excellent, pour toi, … Cette Exposition est excellente pour Nous.' 101

Translation: 'Now you are famous! your picture is very well hung, everyone can see it - you are having the greatest success. … We thought the whites very good they are superb, from a distance (the best judge) they look very good you cannot imagine the curtain the success is one of distinction everyone thinks it very fine very superior. Courbet calls your picture an apparition, spiritualistic and (this annoys him) he says it is good (it annoys him, he had been sulking). Baudelaire think it is charming, charming, exquisite delicacy he says, Legros, Manet, Bracquemond de Balleroy, … think it is very good. Mr de Tournemine placed you himself, he is the director of the Luxembourg Museum. I was very happy to see a great crowd round your picture every time I went into the room, yesterday during the varnishing I saw all the officials there. … this Exhibition is excellent for us.'

Thus the admirers of Whistler's painting included Albert de Balleroy (1828-1873), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Joseph Auguste Bracquemond (1813-1914), Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), and Edouard Manet (1832-1883).

In the Gazette des Beaux-Arts Paul Mantz (1821-1895) complimented Whistler, 'il se dégage de l'oeuvre de M. Whistler un charme étrange; pour nous la Femme en blanc est le morceau capital du salon des hérétiques':

'La Femme en blanc de M. James Whistler est un morceau plein de saveur, et cette figure est à la fois très-goùtée et très-discutée dans le groupe, moins nombreux qu'on ne croit, des amoureux de la peinture. …

La Femme en blanc est aussi d'un aspect un peu singulier; mais il faut ignorer l'historie de la peinture pour oser prétendre que M. Whistler est un excentrique, alors qu'il a, au contaire, des précédents et une tradition qu'il ne faudrait pas méconnaître, surtout en France. De quoi s'agit-il dans son tableau? D'une jeune dame qui, vétue de blanc de pied en cap, se détache sur un rideau blanc: je ne sais si M. Whistler a lu la vie d'Oudry racontée par l'abbé Gougenot, mais il aurait pu y voir que l'habile maître s'exerça bien des fois à grouper, comme dit l'historien, "divers objets blancs," et qu'il exposa entre autres, au Salon de 1753, un assez-grand tableau "représentant, sur un fond blanc, divers objets blancs …" Ces associations de nuances analogues étaient comprises de tout le monde il y a cent ans, et cette difficulté, qui embarasserait aujourd'hui plus d'un maître, passait alors pour un jeu d'écolier: en cherchant un effet pareil, M. Whistler continue donc la tradition française, et ce n'était pas une raison pour refuser son tableau. Mais l'artiste américain a eu tort peut-être de semer de tons bleus le tapis sur lequel marche son charmant fantôme; il est là en dehors de son principe, et presque de son sujet, qu'il n'est pas autre chose que la symphonie du blanc. Ajoutons que la tête de la jeune femme est peinte d'un pinceau trop rugueux, et qu'elle n'est pas jolie; mais l'œuvre a un grand accent personnel. Il ne s'agit pas seulement, dans le tableau de M. Whistler, d'une association de tons qui peut-être ne séduira que les raffinés; la poésie y trouve aussi son compte. D'où vient cette blanche apparition? Que nous veut-elle avec ses cheveux dénoués, ses grands yeux noyés dans l'extase, son attitude alanguie et cette fleur sans pétales aux doigts de sa main pendante? Nul ne peut le dire: la vérité, c'est qu'il se dégage de l'œuvre de M. Whistler un charme étrange: pour nous, la Femme en blanc est le morceau capital du salon des hérétiques.' 102

Translation: 'The Woman in White by Mr James Whistler is a piece full of interest, and this figure is at once very tasteful and much discussed among the surprisingly small group of lovers of painting. The Woman in White is also somewhat singular; but one would have to ignore the history of painting in order to dare claim that Mr. Whistler is an eccentric, whereas he has, on the other hand, precedents and a tradition that should not be ignored, especially in France. What is in his painting? A young lady, dressed in white from head to foot, stands in front of a white curtain: I do not know if Mr. Whistler has read the life of Oudry told by the Abbe Gougenot, but he could have seen there how that skilful master often, as the historian says, grouped together "various white objects," and that he exhibited, among others, at the Salon of 1753, a rather large picture "representing, on a white background, various white objects …” These combinations of similar shades were understood by all the world a hundred years ago, and this difficulty, which would embarrass more than one master to-day, was then considered like a game at school. In seeking such an effect, Mr. Whistler thus continues the French tradition, and this was no reason to refuse his picture. But the American artist was perhaps wrong in scattering blue tones across the carpet on which his charming phantom stands; this is alien to his principle, and almost his subject, that is nothing less than a symphony in white. Let us add that the head of the young woman is painted with too a coarse a brush, and that she is not pretty; but the work has great personal individuality. There is not merely, in Mr. Whistler's picture, an association of tones which, perhaps, will only seduce the refined; poetry is also found there. Where does this white apparition come from? What does she want with her loose hair, her big eyes drowned in ecstasy, her languid attitude and that flower without petals on the fingers of her hanging hand? No one can say: the truth is that Mr. Whistler's work has a strange charm: for us, the Woman in White is the finest piece in the salon of heretics.'

Mantz, in calling the painting 'la symphonie du blanc', was the first to make a connection between Whistler's art and music, a correlation that Whistler would affirm in later years. In 1867, he exhibited the third of his white 'Symphonies' with the title Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, and went on to produce further series of 'Symphonies', 'Nocturnes', 'Arrangements', and 'Harmonies'.

Meanwhile, back in London, Whistler saw the success of the original 'White Girl' in terms of a challenge to the Royal Academy, and to such establishment artists as John Calcott Horsley (1817-1903). Hearing that a likely purchaser had been found for the picture in Paris, he wrote to Fantin-Latour from London: 'si tu savais quel effet aussi cette nouvelle a produit ici! Il sont pas mal degoutés les Horseley et autres de penser que la fille blanche soit bien vue à Paris apres l'avoir maltraité ici - !' 103 However, this purchase fell through.

In the summer of 1863, after the end of the Salon des Refusés, the painting was still in Paris and Whistler tried to retrieve it from Hardy-Alan, stating again that he did not wish it to be exhibited by Louis Martinet (1814-1895) at the Société Nationale, but, according to Fantin-Latour, 'la fille Blanche' was hanging there, 'haut et mal', by 19 July 1863. 104

1866: LONDON.

In January 1866 Charles Samuel Keene (1823-1891) told Edwin Edwards (1823-1879) that 'Whistler's Paris Picture' was on view at the gallery owned by Ernest Gambart (1814-1902), of Ernest Gambart and Co. 105

1867: PARIS.

The painting hung in the American section of the Exposition Universelle in Paris. According to William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), '[Whistler] says that he never from first to last received any invitation to contribute to the British section of the Paris Exhibition. This might seem invidious, but the result is that he gets in the American section much more space than could have been allotted him in the British.' 106 Whistler, on the contrary, claimed that his works were ill-displayed in the cramped entrance corridor 'where they have been more or less damned by every body and now [I] will have to pay for getting them back again!' 107 It is true that Paul Mantz was now more critical of 'la fameuse Femme en blanc', finding the head unbearably ugly, despite the appealing harmony of colour in the white of the dress and blue of the carpet. 108

1872: LONDON.

It was probably early in 1872 that the picture was somehow damaged but Whistler hoped to repair it in time for the London International Exhibition. 109 On 27 March he called on Alan Summerly Cole 'about his picture for the Exhibition (The White Girl.)' 110 Despite Whistler's assurance that 'the picture is now all right - and you can insert it in the Catalogue without fear and really have it on Wednesday morning,' some ten days later he apologised profusely, 'I am very sorry that it should not this year be exhibited but I am afraid that it is impossible - so it will be best not to insert it in the Catalogue.' 111 It was too late: the catalogue was already printed and contains an entry for 'The White Girl' (no. 260). 112 Possibly as a kind of cover-up, Whistler sent Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl y052 instead. 113


It was several years before the painting found a purchaser, Whistler's own step-brother, and several years after that before his family actually received it in America, where it was shown in the Academy Charity Exhibition in Baltimore in 1876. S. P. Avery sent Whistler a copy of a review of the show:

'The Charity Art Exhibition opened upon last Thursday evening, and in spite of the wretched weather, established itself as an unqualified success. …

There are some pictures exhibited which we are glad to see, since they afford us an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the work of a very remarkable artist, Mr. James McNeill Whistler of London, formerly of this city. Mr. Whistler has long been a bone of critical contention in England, and ever since his difficulty with the Royal Academy has been an Independent annual exhibitor. His work finds many to earnestly condemn it and quite as many to sincerely praise it. Leading English critics have now for several years devoted themselves to the earnest discussion of it, and their opinions are about evenly divided. It is not of a kind to elicit anything but positive opinions; and does not readily admit of negative comment. We would suggest to our readers that they take the pictures at the Academy into careful consideration, refrain from condemning them off-band, and determine upon acquaintance and study, if they do not reveal some deeper and truer artistic signification than they may at the first glance have seemed to possess. Mr. Whistler is an artist who is nothing if not sincere, and who has earnestly sought to convey honest and truthful impressions without any regard to technical or conventional requirements. He is wholly original; and he has sought by original and unaffected methods to affect very simple and unpretentious creations. In his appreciation and mastery of color values he is not to be surpassed, and the very naturalness and rugged directness of his efforts renders them startling where really they are the least designed to be so.

There are five of his pictures at the Academy on the central screen in the auditorium, "The Thames at Wapping Stairs;" "The Girl In the White Dress;" "On the Brittany sea-coast;" "Portrait of a Lady and Child" and a "Portrait" of the artist, by himself. These pictures are just at present eliciting a great deal of criticism of a very diversified order: some of it quite just, some of it conservatively appreciative, and not a little of it irrational and absurd. It is entirely certain, however, that the group is the "sensation" of the Exhibition and that while the latter lasts it will be a standpoint of constantly increasing interest. ...

With regard to the "Girl In a White Dress," a title which Mr. Whistler is particular about as opposed to the "Woman In White," which he says is not the name of the picture, we may reproduce the following, published in these columns last year: "It is a full-length, life-size study of a woman, dressed in a plain white dress with no vestige of ornament, holding a spray of flowers in her hand, relieved against a grey background of inexplicable tone and standing upon a wolf skin with preserved head of the animal. She has a profusion of red hair falling in unkempt waves on each side of a strange, weird face; and eyes which, when examined closely, reveal a positive green color similar to that of a cat's, reflecting a pale light at evening. The treatment of the subject is brusque and rugged, marked by no delicacy of handling or refinement of method, but, on the contrary, disclosing an art purpose almost primitive in its unaffected, unconscious strength, hampered by no considerations of detail or polish, but striding on to accomplish a broad general result in the simplest way possible, and with as little ceremony or respect for material as may be practicable, Mr. Whistler's genius is severely original, and we fancy it must be a very uncongenial thing to him to do any thing that anybody else ever did on canvas before him, or by the same method. His "Girl in a White Dress" is not a beautiful woman nor of conspicuous symmetry of person, hut there is that in her which makes her face to be indelibly impressed upon one's memory, every lineament of it, as it were, ineffaceably photographed there. It is a singular and an indescribable face, full of the strangest and subtlest expression; and indeed one could not confront a face that should be less satisfactory or reveal as little. Of the artistic merits of the picture it is very difficult to speak with confidence, so contradictory is their nature. One can, however, understand from it how London artists should have regarded it with such perturbation of spirit and how London criticism about it was not unmixed. Mr. Whistler is like any one else of conspicuous genius who makes a 'new departure' in art. Wagner has done something analogous in music, and Hunt and his modern Preraphaelites were more than mere innovators of style. He is a sort of Wagner in painting – a Wagner who is always composing beautiful themes, exquisite conceptions of harmony, and leaving them unfinished.' 114

Another local newspaper commented:

'Probably no part of the exhibition has attracted so much attention as the panel where hang the works of Mr. Whistler. His paintings call forth such extreme expressions of liking and disliking, as to show, if nothing else did, that they are not mediocre performances. The presence of these bizarre works of art, in the midst of far better and far worse pictures, has a very happy educating influence. They force themselves on the attention; it is impossible to escape them. Some find in them a strange and weird fascination; others are violently repelled. Some consider them masterworks of technical skill ; others look upon them as mere daubs. But this at least is taught by these pictures, that the aim of art is not mere prettiness. Mr. Whistler had a perfectly definite aim, and an original path to reach that aim.

'His works may not be pleasing, but they nevertheless are poetic. People who are at first repelled by that white lady, and who fly out at it and call it hard names, sometimes to their surprise find their attention riveted by the spectre when they catch an accidental view of her. The seeming faults of the drawing and color are so obvious, in fact so obtrusive, that some people will look at nothing else, until chance leads them to take another view of it. They begin to find then that this work is not lunacy, and that its apparent negligence and lack of finish are not carelessness, but profound study. It is very elaborate unfinish; and the artist has aimed at effects attainable in no other way. One has taken a long step in art culture, when he has learned this much.' 115

1881: NEW YORK.

It was shown in New York in two exhibitions in 1881. At the Union League Club an exhibition that was probably organised by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) included what was unenthusiastically described by one newspaper critic as 'Whistler's eccentric picture, the "Woman in White" ':

'... a tall. slender woman with reddish hair; and, herself, "as white as a sheet," clothed in plain white. A lily is held in or rather lolls from her hand, which hangs listlessly by her side, as if she were expecting the poet Postlethwayte to lunch. the figure is silhouetted by a vague difference in tone upon the white drapery before which it stands, and the feet are set on what seems to be the skin of some animal unknown to zoology. The painting is so high that it cannot be hung in a good light.' 116

1893: CHICAGO.

The art dealer E. G. Kennedy hoped that the painting could be borrowed for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) reported that, according to Halsey Cooley Ives (1847-1911), 'you are well represented … Your old "White girl" is there'; however, for some reason it is not in the catalogue. 117

1895: NEW YORK.

The print collector Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), writing from New York, told Whistler, 'You have been much in evidence in two cities this side of the ocean during the last month. At our Metropolitan Museum, "The White Girl" still holds her splendid supremacy.' 118

1904: BOSTON.

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/13
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/13

In Boston in 1904, as the photograph reproduced above shows, Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl held a place of honour.


Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905


Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present



Journals 1906-Present





1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 38).

2: 'Hardy-Alan … Tient tous les articles de peinture, atelier de toiles et restauration de tableaux, locations de chevalets et mannequins', bill, 28 August 1862, GUW #02026.

3: Ibid., GUW #02026. Whistler leased the studio from November 1861 to 15 April 1862 (D. Louncke to Whistler, 14 November and 30 December 1861, GUW #02638 and #02640).

4: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 95.

5: Fantin-Latour to Deschamps, 12 November 1903, GUL MS Whistler BP III f 254.

6: Miss Chapman was probably Rose or Eliza, one of the sisters of Alfred Chapman (1839-1917) and George R. Chapman (b. 1834). Extracts from her diary, E. R. and J. Pennell Collection, Library of Congress.

7: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 19 February 1862, GUW #06518. He had to return to London briefly after the death of Ralph Thomas, Sr (1803-1862).

8: [February 1862], Du Maurier 1951 [more], p. 105.

9: Diaries, Lucas Collection, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; quoted by Randall 1979 [more], pp. 130, 132.

10: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 12 May 1862, GUW #06519.

11: 15 May 1862, Musée de Grenoble. Free translation: 'I do not know why they refused Whistler's painting, it had great qualities. I saw it when he was working on it and followed its progress. Whistler showed me a side that I did not know before, the persistence, the will.'

12: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 95.

13: Translated, 'to finish the white Girl for the salon in Paris', [12/19 November 1862], GUW #07952.

14: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, [19 December 1862], GUW #09189.

15: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, 16 March [1863], GUW #10693; Whistler to J. A. Rose, [20 March 1863], GUW #08985.

16: Whistler to H. Fantin-Latour, 23 March [1863], GUW #11456. Translation: 'I am bringing "The White Girl" - ! may I unroll my canvas and frame it in your studio, so that we may see it together before sending it to the Salon?'

17: Fantin-Latour to Whistler, 1 May 1863, GUW #01079. Ouvrage de peinture, sculpture, gravure, lithographie et architecture, refusés par le Jury de 1863, et exposés, par décision de S.M. l'Empereur, au salon annexi, Salon des Refusés, Palais des Champs-Elysées, Paris, 1863 (cat. no. 596).

18: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 3 February 1864, GUW #08036.

19: G. W. Whistler to Whistler, 25 November (Russian dating, St Petersburg, 7 December) 1866, GUW #06679.

20: Diaries, Lucas Collection, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; quoted by Randall 1979 [more], p. 255.

21: 25 August (St Petersburg, 6 September) 1868, GUW #06684.

22: A. S. Cole diary, 27 March and 15 April 1872, GUW #13132; Whistler to A. S. Cole, [14 and 25 April 1872], GUW #09021 and #09011.

23: Whistler to Mrs F. R. Leyland, [20 August/4 September 1875], GUW #08052.

24: 1 April 1862, diary, Lucas Collection, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; quoted by Randall 1979 [more], pp. 130, 132.

25: Whistler to E. Edwards, [10/20 June 1862], GUW #09079.

26: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, 26 June [1862], GUW #11977.

27: Stephens, 28 June 1862 [more]; title disputed in a letter to the Editor, Whistler, 5 July 1862 [more], reprinted in Whistler 1890 [more], p. 54.

28: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [12/19 November 1862], GUW #07952.

29: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, [19 December 1862] and 16 March [1863], GUW #09189 and #10693.

30: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 23 March [1863], GUW #11456.

31: Ouvrage de peinture, sculpture, gravure, lithographie et architecture, refusés par le Jury de 1863, et exposés, par décision de S.M. l'Empereur, au salon annexi, Salon des Refusés, Palais des Champs-Elysées, Paris, 1863 (cat. no. 596).

32: Rossetti 1863a [more].

33: 85th exhibition Salon de 1867, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1867 and Exposition Universelle/ Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867 U.S.A. Section (two catalogues: cat. nos. 68 and 75).

34: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [July/September 1867], originally dated [September 1867?], GUW #08045.

35: Whistler to A. S. Cole, [25 April 1872], GUW #09011.

36: Academy Charity Exhibition, Academy of Music, Baltimore, March 1876 (cat. no. 43).

37: Undated note, possibly written [1872/1878], on a letter from Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [15 May 1863], GUW #01081.

38: Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, 20 March 1876.

39: Whistler to J. A. Rose, [November 1878], GUW #08784.

40: November 1878, GUL Whistler PC 1, p. 3.

41: Loan Collection of Paintings, in the West Galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1881 (cat. no. 60).

42: Anon., 'The Union League', unidentified newspaper, [10 April 1881], press cutting, GUL Whistler PC 4, p. 61.

43: Loan Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1894 (cat. no. 252); Loan Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1895 (cat. no. 253).

44: Whistler to T. D. Whistler, October 1897, GUW #02678.

45: Loan Exhibition of Portraits for the Benefit of the Orthopædic Hospital, National Academy of Design, New York, 1898-1899 (cat. no. 254).

46: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 71).

47: 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. 37).

48: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 4).

49: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 38).

50: 1 July 1862, GUW #13149; Whistler, 5 July 1862 [more], reprinted in Whistler 1890 [more], p. 54.

51: F. Buckstone to the Editor, The Athenaeum, [18 July 1862], GUW #12979; Buckstone, 19 July 1862 [more]. On the whole affair see Spencer 1998 [more], at pp. 302–05.

52: Mantz 1863 C [more], at pp. 60-61.

53: deMontfort 2003a [more].

54: Castagnary 1863a[more], at p. 179-80.

55: Prettejohn 2007 [more], pp. 164-66. See also Curry 2004 [more].

56: MacDonald, Margaret F. (ed.) The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and Washington, 2020, pp. 20, 34, 177-78.

57: Du Maurier 1951 [more], p. 105.

58: Castagnary 1863a[more], at pp. 179-80.

59: Mantz 1863 C [more], in vol. 15, at pp. 60-61; Mantz 1867 C [more], at p. 230. Curiously, in neither review did he mention that she was standing on a bear-skin.

60: Mantz 1863 C [more]; Mantz 1867 C [more].

61: These points were discussed in a letter from William P. Campbell, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., to M. F. MacDonald, 8 May 1975, GUL WPP file.

62: Mantz 1863 C [more], at pp. 60-61; Castagnary 1863a[more], at pp. 179-80; Tuckerman 1867 [more].

63: Chesneau 1863 [more], at p. 1, under the additional heading 'IV. Salon annexe des ouvrages d'art refusés par le Jury'; Desnoyers 1863 [more], at p. 8, 108 [check]; see also Thoré, 'Salon de 1863,' in Salons de Thoré-Burger de 1861 a 1868; Duret 1914 [more]

64: Castagnary 1863a[more], at pp. 179-80.

65: [July/September 1867], originally dated [September 1867?], GUW #08045.

66: Mantz 1867, op. cit., at p. 230.

67: Whistler to A. S. Cole, [25 April 1872], GUW #09011.

68: GUL Whistler PH 4/4.

69: See a full discussion of Whistler's technique in 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.

70: [9 July 1886], GUW #11359.

71: [14 April 1872], GUW #09021.

72: [25 April 1872], GUW #09011. An entry in A. S. Cole's diary for 25 April 1872 notes 'White Girl not forthcoming,' and as this is the last reference to the painting in 1872, it seems likely that this is the date of the letter (25 April was a Thursday). See also Whistler's related letters, GUW #09021, GUW #09020.

73: Dr S. L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017; Parkerson 2007 [more]. See also 'A Bounty of Frames: From Wood to Canvas: Attached Frames and Artists' Choices', National Gallery of Art website at

74: Whistler to F. Leyland, [20 August/4 September 1875], GUW #08052.

75: Bürger 1863 [more], at p. 2; repr. Bürger 1870 [more], vol. 1, p. 420, and Bürger 1893 [more], vol. 2, p. 420.

76: [25 May/10 June 1863], GUW #08044.

77: [31 May/June 1863], GUW #09455.

78: 25 November and 7 December 1866, GUW #06679. The 'Exposition' referred to is the Exposition Universelle of 1867 in Paris.

79: 25 August and 6 September 1868, GUW #06684.

80: 2 November 1894, GUW #07240; 29 January 1895, GUW #07246.

81: Kennedy to Whistler, 24 March 1896, GUW #07275; F. W. Coburn to J. Revillon, 23 July 1945, GUL Revillon LB 1/154, Rev 1955.

82: 16 April [1903], GUW #04622.

83: October 1897, GUW #02678.

84: Weir to Whistler, 30 December 1901, GUW #06292.

85: The National Gallery website explains that the 1980 catalogue raisonné, 'lists the last owners of the painting as Harris Whittemore's son and daughter, Harris Whittemore, Jr., and Mrs Charles S. Upson. They were officers of the J. H. Whittemore Company (Harris Whittemore, Jr., was President), which was the actual owner of the painting.'

86: J. Hiffernan to G. A. Lucas, [9 April 1862], GUW #09186.

87: Reminiscences of Whistler by Harper Pennington, Pennell Collection, Library of Congress.

88: Whistler to E. Edwards, [10/20 June 1862], GUW #09079: he begged Edwards to lend some still life paintings by Fantin-Latour to the same show.

89: 26 June [1862], GUW #11977. See also Spencer 1998 [more], pp. 302-05.

90: Rossetti 1863a [more]; press cutting in GUL PC1, p. 37.

91: 16 March [1863], GUW #10693.

92: Whistler to L. Martinet, and to Fantin-Latour, [22 and 23 April 1863], GUW #08034 and #08033.

93: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [3 May 1863], GUW #08035.

94: The literature on the subject is abundant; selected contributions with more extensive bibliographies include D. Wildenstein 1965 [more], Boime 1969[more], and Wilson-Bareau 2007 [more].

95: 1 May 1863, GUW #01079.

96: Fink 1990 [more], pp. 230-31, 264, 79-83, 102.

97: Translated: 'The papers must still be talking about us - so send us some - Graham's Figaro certainly must have been good on the White Girl - and the Gazette des beaux Arts - and [Théophile] Gautier and all that', [6/10 July 1863], GUW #08043.

98: Translated: 'the famous Graham has cooled down again he has not had any articles about the Rejects he said I have no more time', [11 July 1863], GUW #01078.

99: Spencer 1998 [more], at p. 300.

100: Whistler to J. A. Rose, [November 1878], GUW #08784.

101: [15 May 1863], GUW #01081; Whistler not only kept this letter but annotated it, 'The White Girl / Symphony in White No 1. ... Letter from Fantin The well known painter who had portrait in this years Academy and whose flower pictures are known to all the World.'

102: Mantz 1863 C [more], at pp. 60-61.

103: Translated: 'if only you knew the effect this news has also had here! They are not a little disgusted the Horsleys and others to think that the white girl should be well received in Paris after having been badly treated here - !', [25 May/10 June 1863], GUW #08044.

104: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [12/17 July 1863], GUW #08031, and reply, 19 July 1863, GUW #01082.

105: [10 January 1866], GUW #12427.

106: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 139-41.

107: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, [6 April 1867], and 20 November 1867, GUW #09192 and #09194.

108: 'Nous nous sommes jadis fort compromis au service de cette dame: la tête est d'une laideur insupportable; mais dans la note blanche de la robe et dans le tapis à ramages bleus, il y a des accords charmants et rares.' Mantz 1867 C [more], at p. 230.

109: London International Exhibition of 1872, the Second of a Series Held under the Direction of Her Majesty’s Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, London, [in the building for the Exhibition of 1862], 1872.

110: On 15 April, A. S. Cole noted 'White Girl not forthcoming.' Diary, partial transcript, 27 March and 15 April 1872, GUW #13132.

111: [14 April 1872], GUW #09021; [25 April 1872], GUW #09011.

112: Catalogue London International Exhibition 1872 [more]. Not only that, but at least one newspaper, Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 30 April 1872, announced that the "White Girl" , "A Symphony in White" was in the show! .

113: There is no doubt about this, since the exhibited painting was described very clearly in The Times; see Taylor, Tom, The Times, 14 May 1872 [more].

114: Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Paintings,' Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, 20 March 1876; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC1, p. 75.

115: Anon., 'Art Culture', unidentified Baltimore newspaper, [March 1876] press cutting in GUL Whistler PC1, p. 77.

116: Anon., 'The Union League', unidentified press cutting, New York, [10 April 1881], GUL Whistler PC 4, p. 61.

117: E. G. Kennedy to Whistler, 12 November 1892, GUW #07206; Abbey to Whistler, [10/25 January 1893], GUW #00001.

118: 1 January 1895, GUW #04007.