The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 056
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1864-1873
Collection: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: F1892.23a-b
Medium: oil
Support: wood
Size: 61.4 x 48.8 cm (24 1/4 x 19 1/4")
Signature: butterfly
Inscription: originally signed and dated 'Whistler. 1865.'
Frame: Grau-style, American, 1892 [14.2 cm]

Date

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony dates from between 1864 and 1873. 1

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art

1864: Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), described him as working on 'a group in Oriental costume on a balcony, a tea equipage of the old china' in February 1864:

'Are you an admirer of old China? this Artistic abode of my son is ornamented by a very rare collection of Japanese & Chinese, he considers the paintings upon them the finest specimens of Art & his companions (Artists) who resort here for an evening relaxation occasionally, get enthusiastic as the[y] handle & examine the curious subjects pourtrayed [sic], some of the pieces more than two centuries old, he has also a Japanese book of painting, unique in their estimation. ... he could not leave his oriental paintings which are ordered & he has several in progress: One portrays a group in Oriental costume on a balcony, a tea equipage of the old China, the[y] look out upon a river, with a town in the distance.' 2

1865: Whistler completed the first state of this painting and signed it 'Whistler. 1865.' 3

1867: In the early summer Whistler wrote to Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) about a small study of the 'balcon':

'Je t'envoies une photographie d'apres la petite esquisse du "balcon" - Je vais le faire grand presque comme nature pour le salon - Dis moi ce que [tu] en penses pour composition, lignes etc ... la couleur en est tres éclatante.' 4 (Translation: 'I send you a photograph of the little study of the "balcony" - I am going to make it almost life-size for the salon - Tell me what you think of it as to composition, lines etc ... the colour of it is very brilliant.')

1867: On 31 March 1867 William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) mentioned in his diary that he had seen this painting, and 'I think the unmitigated tint of the flooring should be gradated but he does not seem to see it.' 5

1870: By the spring of 1870 Whistler had abandoned the idea of enlarging the study for the Salon. Instead he worked on Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in May (cat. no. 468) as 'The Balcony'.

1870/1872: At some time, Whistler added flowers in the foreground and signed it with a butterfly on a rectangular field.

1870/1878: Whistler made several additions to the painting, as he wrote to John Cavafy (1839-1901): 'I borrowed it several times from your Father - and each time I worked upon it and added to its worth until at last I had more than quadrupled its value - In the end I also ordered for it a new frame - and elaborately painted and ornamented it.' 6 He worked on several paintings, possibly including this one, before they were shown at the II Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1878. 7

For the relationship of this painting to the other paintings of the later 1860s, see Study of Draped Figures y058.

Images

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, photograph, 1893, GUL Whistler PH5/6/3
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, photograph, 1893, GUL Whistler PH5/6/3

'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 18, 1889, repr. p. 491
'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 18, 1889, repr. p. 491

'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Мир искусства [Mir Iskusstva, 'World of Art'], vol. 9, 1903, repr. p. 67
'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Мир искусства [Mir Iskusstva, 'World of Art'], vol. 9, 1903, repr. p. 67

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art, framed
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art, framed

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, detail of frame
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, detail of frame

Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian
Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian

Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library
Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library

Study for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', The Hunterian
Study for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', The Hunterian

Torii Kiyonaga, A Party viewing the Moon on the Sumida River, right panel of triptych, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Torii Kiyonaga, A Party viewing the Moon on the Sumida River, right panel of triptych, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

r.: A group of figures, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute
r.: A group of figures, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute

Six paintings, detail, GUL MS Whistler W784
Six paintings, detail, GUL MS Whistler W784

Study of 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library
Study of 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library

Whistler commented in 1900 on a suggestion that his painting should be reproduced in a forthcoming book: 'The small painting of mine, sometimes called "The Balcony", would, I fancy, come rather irrelevantly into your proposed collection of Architecture, sculpture and Old Masters - and certainly its relation to "Education" would be difficult to establish! - while its effect upon the Youth of America I propose in no way to be responsable [sic] for!' 8

Subject

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested, with 'Variations' and 'Harmony' alternating:

The 1878 title was mocked gently in a number of newspapers. One art critic wrote, 'Whistler has in the gallery two "arrangements", one "variation", one "harmony", and three "nocturnes." We do not know whether Mr Whistler ever intends to paint sonatas, overtures, or symphonies, but we hope he does not.' 17 The preferred title 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony' is based on the 1878 rather than the 1892 exhibition title.

In this catalogue raisonné Whistler's title or the first published title is retained, wherever possible. Whistler’s use of “flesh colour” to describe colour, as here, could imply a racist presumption that skin tone is defined as 'white' or Caucasian. In this case the 'flesh-pink' of the models' skin is echoed in a kimono and blossoms. It was not the first painting to be (at least temporarily) defined by this term: La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050 was shown as ''The Princess, Variations in Flesh Colour and Blue' in 1872 and 'Arrangement in flesh colour and gray – La Princesse des pays de la Porcelaine' in 1875.

Description

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art

A figure composition in vertical format. On a balcony overlooking the river are four women. At left, a woman in a pink kimono-like robe reclines on the floor, leaning on her elbow at right and holding a fan above her head. In front of her is a black tray bearing tea things. To her right is a standing woman seen from the back, dressed in a black robe embroidered with a small flower pattern; she is holding on to the balcony railing and looking to right, over the river. In front and to right of her is a seated woman in a pale blue jacket or robe, open to reveal a white dress embroidered with flowers, who is playing a lute. Half hidden to right, behind this musician, is a dark-haired seated woman facing front. Behind these two is a pillar and, at the upper edge and upper right corner, there are slatted blinds. There are flowers in the foreground and a cartouche with a butterfly monogram in the lower left corner. On the far side of the river are factories, a spoil heap and chimneys.

Site

Grey and Silver: Chelsea Wharf, National Gallery of Art, DC
Grey and Silver: Chelsea Wharf, National Gallery of Art, DC

Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, Art Institute of Chicago
Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, Art Institute of Chicago

Chelsea in Ice, Colby College Museum of Art
Chelsea in Ice, Colby College Museum of Art

Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses, The Hunterian
Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses, The Hunterian

The view of Battersea Reach, on the river Thames, London, from Whistler's house in Lindsey Row (now Cheyne Walk), Chelsea, as seen in many of Whistler's paintings of the 1860s and 1870s (Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach y046, Chelsea in Ice y053, Grey and Silver: Chelsea Wharf y054, Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses y055, Study of Draped Figures y058, Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony y056, and Sketch for 'The Balcony' y057. It is likewise seen in several nocturnes including Nocturne in Blue and Silver y113, Nocturne y114, Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Battersea Reach y119, and Nocturne: Battersea y120.

Sitter

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art

The models probably include 'la Japonaise', who posed for Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, The Artist's Studio y062, and The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio) y063.

It appears that Whistler may have used wooden dolls as models, as well as live models. The American artist Clifford Isaac Addams (1876-1942) (Whistler's apprentice) told Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936):

'A furniture restorer of note in Westminster told ... me one day when I chanced to mention Whistler "Oh I knew Mr. Whistler well … Why, sir once upon a time I had in my shop some exquisite little Jap dolls in various attitudes. Well dressed little things they were too! Mr. Whistler bought them and I thought no more of the matter. Till suddenly (that had been winter time) in the spring a friend ... said William have you seen your dolls in the Academy? I didn't know what he meant. But the long and the short of it is that Mr. Whistler painted those dolls most exactly and there they were in the Academy and I was dumfounded!" ' 18

Comments

A woodcut by Suzuki Haronobu (1725-1770) was cited by Sandberg as a possible source for the composition of this painting. 19 The subject and some details are similar although the elements are differently arranged, so that this is unlikely to be the source of the composition.

Torii Kiyonaga, A Party viewing the Moon on the Sumida River, right panel of triptych, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Torii Kiyonaga, A Party viewing the Moon on the Sumida River, right panel of triptych, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

A woodcut by Torrii Kiyonaga (1752-1815), A Party viewing the Moon on the Sumida River, reproduced above, could have suggested elements in Whistler's composition, such as the figure of the girl playing music. 20 Indeed the whole mood of Kiyonaga's series is closely akin to this painting. The range of colour, interaction of figures, and the use of details like blossoms and patterns on materials show how thoroughly Whistler was influenced.

A woodcut from Kiyonaga's Twelve Months in the South of 1784, Minami Juni-ko (The Fourth Month), may also be related to Whistler's painting. Minami Juni-ko shows a relaxed group of standing and seated women in elaborate kimonos on a balcony overlooking the sea, and is comparable to The Balcony in overall composition, and in details such as the tea-making equipment and the rich and varied patterns. Although the print was once in the collection of Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896), it is not certain that Whistler was aware of it before his marriage in 1888 (see also Symphony in White and Red y085). 21

Technique

Composition

Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library
Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library

A pen drawing of the composition, Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony' m0319, dating from about 1864, came into the collection of Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904). It shows that the two figures on the left were not changed much in the final design. However, the girl lying down seems to have her arm behind her back, and a blind comes down to just above the standing woman's head. The woman at the far right is seated in profile to left on a stool. The woman beside her is kneeling with her lute (shamisen) resting on her left knee. There are no blossoms, but some wood panelling is indicated in the right foreground.

Study for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', The
Hunterian
Study for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', The Hunterian

A watercolour, Study for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony' m0320, shows an early version of the composition. The poses of the figures in the watercolour are very like those in this painting but the blossoms are still not extensive. Apparently this was so in the painting in its early state, as seen in the photograph in the Lucas Collection, Baltimore, when the picture had no butterfly signature but was signed 'Whistler. 1865.' A comparison of the drawing with the Freer painting, conducted in 1995, concluded that the drawing was traced from the painting but that it showed some variations, consistent with its being based on the painting at a slightly earlier stage.

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Freer Gallery of Art

The examination resulted in the conclusion that the painting 'is both the earliest and the latest version of the picture.' In the final state of the painting, the flowers were repainted, extended to the right and up the right side, the butterflies and cartouche added at the left, and some puffs of smoke and minor alterations made to the shoreline.

Visual and X-ray examination of the picture show numerous other alterations to the design, of which the most important is a standing figure on the left in the place of the girl lying down. The latter is a late addition, and the lines of the veranda can be seen painted through her waist. There may have been sloping masts to the left of the standing girl to right of centre, and, to her right, another standing figure. The head of the standing girl has been changed and restored, by various hands. The hanging blinds were originally lower, and the pole two inches further to the left.

Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian
Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian

It is not entirely clear in what order the two Balcony compositions were done. This is discussed by MacDonald: 'The enlarged version ("presque comme nature", almost life-size) was perhaps started but certainly not completed, and has not survived. But was the Hunterian vivid squared-up oil sketch a stage in the process of enlarging the beautiful Freer"sketch"? ' 22 Although the Sketch for 'The Balcony' y057 was squared either for enlarging or copying, there is no further record of the enlarged version that Whistler told Fantin-Latour he intended to paint for the Salon in 1867. 23

Technique

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony , Freer Gallery of Art
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony , Freer Gallery of Art

In 1878 Whistler wrote to John Cavafy (1839-1901), about his work on it: 'Look also at the matter of the little Balcony. I borrowed it several times from your Father - and each time I worked upon it.' 24

It was painted directly on a thick course-grained wood panel without gesso preparation.

When Whistler described this painting to Fantin-Latour in 1867, what he emphasized was its colour: 'la couleur en est tres éclatante' (the colour is very brilliant). 25

For the entry on this painting in the Goupil catalogue in 1892 Whistler selected six reviews that accused his work of eccentricity, poor draughtsmanship, lack of finish, and 'predilections for dinginess and dirt'. 26 Presumably these were all criticisms that he expected this painting to refute. Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), indeed, raved about the still-life painting of 'the tray the saké cups' in The Balcony: 'That is what it means to be a painter!' wrote Sickert, 'To know and love your material , as a rider knows his horse or a violinist his fiddle.' 27

Conservation History

In 1892 it was probably cleaned and varnished by Stephen Richards (1844-1900), to whom Whistler sent instructions:

'Now I understand that you will have brought to you, almost directly, four more pictures by me; I have said that you are the only man fit to touch my work, therefore, you must prove again how right I am, in having this full confidence in you. You will clean and take off the varnish with the utmost care and tenderness - Two of the pictures have not been cleaned since they were first painted. They ought all to come out in the most brilliant condition. One, - "The Balcony" you can use your own judgment about.' 28

As Whistler told E. G. Kennedy, '"The Balcony" will probably be in perfect condition already - as it was in my Exhibition at Goupil's and Richards attended to all those.' 29 But Whistler still asked Richards to send the painting, unframed, to Paris in case he wanted to 'touch' it, then changed his mind and said that 'I could not possibly add in any way.' 30 In the end it is not clear if anything was done at this time, for Richards only charged Kennedy £1.10.0 (which he thought excessive) 'for looking at the Balcony', and, Kennedy added, 'He may have done something to it, but it looks just the same as when in London and it was entirely unnecessary to have done anything to it.' 31

It apparently incurred minor damage ('the wood panel had checked considerably') when shown in the Retrospective Exhibition, Society of American Artists, New York, 1892 (cat. no. 358). 32

From 1921 onwards, the painting was frequently repaired, conserved, cleaned and resurfaced at the Freer Gallery of Art. A split in the panel was glued in 1921, and the panel was cradled in the following year. The paint was in poor condition, with areas flaking, and needed considerable repair, infilling and revarnishing in 1954, 1958 and 1965, when Ben Johnson repaired, restored and retouched several areas including the badly damaged head of the standing figure before revarnishing.

Frame

This frame presents a fascinating study in Whistler's framing habits. The canvas has probably possessed three different frames, of which the first two were certainly chosen by Whistler and the third, created in a style of which he approved. The first is believed to have been an oriental cassetta frame similar to those on similar works dating from 1864, such as La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050 and Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen y060. This was removed in the late 1870s.

The original frame was replaced with a Flat Whistler frame made by Foord & Dickinson. 34 Whistler told John Cavafy, 'Look also at the matter of the little Balcony. ... In the end I also ordered for it a new frame - and elaborately painted and ornamented it - and again the mere price of the frame was refused when Foord [sic] and Dickenson sent in his bill.' 35

This frame remained on the canvas until 1892. It is not entirely clear when the current frame was made: either in London or in New York, when E. G. Kennedy ordered new frames for several canvases he had recently purchased.

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony,  framed
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, framed

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, detail of frame
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, detail of frame

This frame may be American made, following the pattern established by Frederick Henry Grau (1859-1892), and may be the third to surround the work. 36

History

Provenance

According to Whistler, he sold it to G. J. Cavafy for 30 guineas (£31.10.0), a price which suggests that it was sold in the mid-late 1870s:

'Look also at the matter of the little Balcony. I borrowed it several times ... and each time I worked upon it and added to its worth until at last I had more than quadrupled its value ... Now when you reflect that 30 guineas was the price paid and that I never since stayed my hand because of the sum, well, it is scarcely flattering to one's sense of appreciation.' 37

In July 1889 Whistler offered to buy it back for 100 guineas (£105.0.0).

'It was good of you to lend me "the Balcony." - I have however to been thinking that instead of continually asking for their loan I might perhaps try, by degrees, to buy back some of my early pictures little pictures - as they ... were all moderate in price -

Taking into consideration at the same time the possible increase in value I know I must give more than I received for them -

I therefore would propose to offer you £180. for the two pictures the Westminster Bridge, and the Balcony - I was paid thirty guineas apiece.' 38

John Cavafy (1839-1901) responded on his father's behalf, 'He desires me to inform you that he has no intention of selling the picture.' 39

In June 1892 Goupil's offered £500 for Cavafy's four paintings, The Last of Old Westminster y039, Battersea Reach y045, Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony y056, and Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville y064. Cavafy then asked for £600 down, but agreed to wait till 8 June for Goupil's decision. 40 Meanwhile, John Chandler Bancroft (1835-1901) of Boston offered John Cavafy £600 for the four paintings, but this was rejected, much to Bancroft's fury, in favour of £650 offered by E. G. Kennedy of H. Wunderlich & Co., New York. 41

A pen sketch, r.: Study of 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony'; v.: Study of 'The Last of Old Westminster' and another painting m1339, reproduced below, was drawn to persuade E. G. Kennedy to buy these pictures. Out of the deal, Kennedy was to get three paintings, and return Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville y064 to Whistler. 42 Once he had bought them, Kennedy had "The Balcony" sent to Paris for Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) to see before it was sent to New York. 43 It was bought from Kennedy by C. L. Freer on 27 September 1892 for $2900. 44

Study of 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library
Study of 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony', New York Public Library

Exhibitions

1870: In The Graphic, on 25 June, it was described as 'a group of Japanese ladies on a balcony, overlooking a panorama of murky river scenery' and commended as 'a bouquet of colour, arranged by a master hand.' The London Evening Standard on 3 June balanced praise of Whistler's 'genius' with reference to a general opinion of his 'eccentricity', and categorised the painting as a Chinese scene painted 'in a masterly style that calls to mind the hurried sketches of the great Velasquez.'

It was more usually and reasonably associated with Japanese art, the Pall Mall Gazette on 20 May, for instance, writing, 'A still more uncompromising and single-minded painter of patterns rather than pictures is Mr. Whistler, whose brilliant and audacious little "Balcony" (468) shows us a group of women in Japanese dressing gowns and big chignons.' The Japanese influence brought negative comments in some circles. The Era on 8 May described it as 'a replica of one of the ordinary Japanese fans, price 6d. at the grocer's shop', though admitting its 'cleverness.' The Art Journal thought it 'singular and eccentric. The picture might have been painted in Japan. It affects to be Japanese in colour, composition, and handling.' 45 Similarly, when it was first exhibited in Paris a French critic wrote: 'Le désir d'atteindre à la franchise des estampes japonaises est flagrant ... C'est de la puérilité prétentieuse' (Translation: The desire to achieve the freedom of Japanese prints is obvious ... It is pretentious childishness). 46

1878: Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921) remembered it at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 as 'a quite delightful picture, suggested, indeed, by Japanese art, but itself not less subtle than the art which prompted it'. 47 The Times suggested a new title, ' "Chelsea China", as it represents ladies in celestial costumes on a balcony overlooking what looks like the Thames on a dirty day.' 48 This was fairly accurate in fact, but in context, dismissive.

1886-1887:

Six paintings, detail, GUL MS Whistler W784
Six paintings, detail, GUL MS Whistler W784

A pencil sketch, Six paintings m1328, showed Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony included in a wish-list for a one-man exhibition at the Society of British Artists in 1886 or 1887. 49 The proposed exhibition was abandoned when Whistler was forced to resign from the Society.

1887-1889: Theodore Child (1846-1892), wrote in 1887 regarding Whistler's exhibits in France:

'Here in Paris we only know Whistler the etcher of the Thames and of Venice, and Whistler the painter of "The White Girl," exhibited in the Salon of 1863, of the Japanese fantasie "On The Balcony," of "At the Piano," and of the portraits of Miss Alexander, of Thomas Carlyle, and of the artist's mother - half a dozen works which are as near masterpieces as anything which this century has produced.' 50

In June 1888, and again in July and November, Child begged Whistler for a photograph of Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, to be engraved for an article on the Exposition Universelle of 1889, 'I wish you would be amiable yet a little while and send me over a photo for engraving of those girls on the balcony with flowers as you promised.' 51 Whistler agreed to having it engraved and the actual painting was finally sent to Paris for this purpose in December 1888. 52

'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 18, 1889, repr. p. 491
'Arrangement in Flesh-Color and Green', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 18, 1889, repr. p. 491

Whistler thought the engraving 'beautiful' but asked Child to return the painting in order to placate the owner, 'Do send back the Balcony if it can now be spared - as the owner might in this way be softened towards me - and so be willing again to lend his pictures.' 53 In fact the owner agreed to lend it to the Exposition Universelle, and his son wrote, 'Pray let my father's "Balcony" picture be exhibited at the Paris International Exposition, since you wish it - But he feels, as we all do, that it is a little trying to be without the picture for so long - I am sure that you will return it to us as early as possible after closure of the Exposition.' 54 Whistler commented that, as a result, 'I have been thus enabled to show to the Art world in Paris what otherwise was lost in your rooms.' 55 And furthermore, Whistler was awarded a gold medal.

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Goupil Album, 1892, GUL PH5/6/3
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony, Goupil Album, 1892, GUL PH5/6/3

1892: Cavafy was at first unwilling to lend his pictures again, but eventually he agreed to lend Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony to the Goupil retrospective, at which point Whistler immediately tried, but failed, to borrow it for Munich. 56 In the Goupil catalogue, Whistler mocked art critics, including Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) and Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921) by judicious selections from their earlier reviews of Whistler's work. These included Hamerton's disparaging description of Whistler's 'eccentricities', and Wedmore's heavy-handed comment, 'A Variation in Flesh Colour and Green. The damsels ̶ they were not altogether meritorious. The draughtsmanship displayed in them was anything but "searching." ' 57 By such quotations, in the catalogue, Whistler emphasized his seriousness as an artist and his skills as a draughtsman and painter.

By late 1892 the painting was in the collection of Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), and Beatrice Whistler wrote, 'We have heard from Mr Freer - He telegraphed asking if Harpers might reproduce the "Balcony"[.] We are very glad he has bought it - and hope you got the 1000 guineas, and that he will lend it to the Chicago Exposition.' 58

However, instead it went to the Society of American Artists exhibition in New York and unfortunately sustained some damage. 59

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

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

COLLECTION:

EXHIBITION:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 56).

2: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 10-11 February 1864, GUW #06522.

3: Photograph in G. A. Lucas Collection, Baltimore.

4: [June/July 1867], GUW #08045. This letter was formerly dated [September 1867?], but it was probably written shortly after the Royal Academy exhibition, which opened in May.

5: Rossetti 1903 [more], pp. 228-29.

6: Whistler to J. Cavafy, [July/October 1878], GUW #00549.

7: Whistler to J. A. Rose, [9 April 1878], GUW #10730.

8: 19 January 1900, GUW #07473.

9: 102nd Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1870 (cat. no. 468).

10: II Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1878 (cat. no. 54).

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

12: Inscribed photograph, G. A. Lucas collection, Baltimore Museum of Art.

13: List, [1886/1887], GUW #06795.

14: Exposition Universelle, Champs de Mars, Paris, 1889 (British section, cat. no. 166).

15: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 40).

16: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 56).

17: Anon., '[Grosvenor Gallery] Second Notice', Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 14 May 1878, p. 6.

18: Letter dated 26 January 1912, LC PC.

19: Sandberg 1964 [more], at p. 504, woodcut by Haronobu repr. fig. 31.

20: See also Autumn Moon on the Sumida river, British Museum Print Room, BM 1910-2-12-437.

21: British Museum 1949-4-9-066. Prideaux 1970 [more], Kiyonaga woodcut, repr. p. 94.

22: MacDonald, Margaret F., 'The chicken and the egg', James McNeill Whistler and his Art, blog at https://jmcnwhistler.wordpress.com.

23: [June/July 1867], GUW #08045.

24: [July/October 1878], GUW #00549.

25: [June/July 1867], GUW #08045.

26: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 40).

27: W. Sickert 1892 [more]; W. Sickert 2000 [more], pp. 94-95.

28: 12 June 1892, GUW #08114.

29: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 13 [June] 1892, GUW #09685.

30: [27 June 1892] and [28 June 1892], GUW #05189 and #10715.

31: Kennedy to Whistler, 26 October 1892, and 29 October 1892, GUW #07203 and #07204.

32: C. L. Freer to Whistler, 9 January 1894, GUW #01506.

33: Dr Sarah L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017.

34: Ibid.

35: Whistler to J. Cavafy, [July/October 1878], GUW #00549.

36: Parkerson 2017, op. cit.

37: Whistler to J. Cavafy, [July/October 1878], GUW #00549.

38: One of several drafts of a letter to J. Cavafy, [1/8 April 1889], GUW #00554; see also GUW #00555.

39: J. Cavafy to M. B. Huish, The Fine Art Society, 31 July 1889, GUW #00556.

40: Cavafy to Whistler, 7 June 1892, GUW #00783.

41: Whistler to Cavafy, [8 June 1892], GUW #00565; Cavafy to J. & R. McCracken, and to Bancroft, 10 June 1892, GUW #00562 and #00784; Bancroft to Whistler, 11 June 1892, GUW #00248. For the continuing reverberations of this sale, see Kennedy to Whistler, 2 December 1892, GUW #07207; Bancroft to Kennedy, 11 December 1892, GUW #00491 and #09844; G. & W. Webb to B. Whistler, 13 December 1892, and to Whistler, 17 December 1892, GUW #06172 and #09841; Whistler to Kennedy, 19 December 1892, GUW #07210 and #09828, and 15 February 1893, GUW #09704; and finally Bancroft to G. de Maurier, 11 November 1894, GUW #11556. See also Sieger, William, 'Whistler and John Chandler Bancroft', Burlington Magazine, vol. 136, October 1994, pp. 675-82.

42: Whistler to Kennedy, 10-11 June 1892, with drawings by Whistler after paintings, GUW #09680.

43: Kennedy to J. McN. Whistler, 25 July 1892, GUW #07198.

44: Freer Gallery Archives.

45: Art Journal June 1870 [more].

46: [Exposition], Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1873; unidentified press cuttings, 1873, GUW Whistler PC 1, pp. 61, 71.

47: Wedmore 1879 [more]. According to one journalist, 'a balcony scene entitled "Variations in flesh colour and green" 'was one of the paintings exhibited at the Westminster Palace Hotel at the time of the Whistler-Ruskin trial in November 1878, as an example of works successfully exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in that year (The Globe, London, 25 November 1878; press cutting, GUW Whistler PC 2, pp. 28-29).

48: 'The Grosvenor Gallery,' The Times, London, 2 May 1878, p. 7.

49: [1886/1887], formerly dated [4/11 January 1892], GUW #06795.

50: Child to Edmund Yates, 19 January 1887, GUW #13182. Published in Ford 1890 [more], pp. 154-55, under the title 'Butterfly Calumny'.

51: 30 June 1888, GUW #00615; see also GUW #00617.

52: Child to Whistler, 11 December 1888, GUW #00619; Child, Theodore, 'American Artists at the Paris Exhibition', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 79, September 1889, pp. 489-521, at pp. 492-94, engraving repr. p. 491.

53: [February/March 1889], and [1/2 March 1889], GUW #00622 and #09270.

54: J. Cavafy to Whistler, 14 March 1889, GUW #00551.

55: [31 March 1889], GUW #00552.

56: Cavafy to Whistler, 28 January 1892, GUW #00557; Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [1/8 April 1892], GUW #08210.

57: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 40). Whistler did not quote the perfectly flattering comments published by Wedmore in 1879, which are quoted above.

58: B. Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [22 October / November 1892], GUW #09793.

59: C. L. Freer wrote, 'the wood panel had checked considerably'; letter to Whistler, 9 January 1894, GUW #01506.