The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 069
Green and Grey. Channel

Green and Grey. Channel

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1865
Collection: Montclair Art Museum, NJ
Accession Number: 1960.82
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 52.7 x 95.9 cm (20 3/4 x 37 3/4")
Signature: none
Inscription: none

Date

Green and Grey. Channel was probably painted in Trouville between October and November 1865.

Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ
Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ

In 1980 this painting was given the title 'The Sea', but this title has now been corrected to Green and Grey. Channel: furthermore, another oil painting, recorded in 1980 as Blue and Gold: Channel, 1 and thought to date from the 1870s, is in fact Green and Grey. Channel, which dates from the 1860s.

Images

Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ
Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ

Green and Grey. Channel, photograph, 1892, GUL Whistler PH4/6
Green and Grey. Channel, photograph, 1892, GUL Whistler PH4/6

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18

Subject

Titles

Suggested titles are as follows:

There is not much 'blue' in the picture, and the revised title 'Green and Grey. Channel' is more appropriate than the first version published in 1892, and is the preferred title.

Description

Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ
Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ

A seascape in horizontal format: it shows green seas with waves breaking on a beach at left, under a pale blue sky scattered with scudding clouds. In the lower right corner is a sailing boat heeling over to left in the wind as it puts off to sea.

Site

Probably Trouville on the coast of France.

Comments

William H. Gerdts comments,

'James A. McNeill Whistler ... approaches Impressionism in his simplification of form and his sense of the moment, though in his masterful nocturnes and his paintings of the sea, his concern with openness, emptiness, and asymmetrical design suggest his receptivity to the newly discovered art of the Orient.' 5

The Montclair Art Museum website comments :

'This seascape from the French Channel resort of Trouville was painted outdoors, or en plein air. Whistler's fresh response to nature was influenced by such avant-garde French artists as Gustave Courbet, whom the young American was visiting when he painted this masterpiece. However, The Sea [now known as Green and Grey. Channel] also demonstrates Whistler's growing disenchantment with the "here and now" of Courbet's naturalism. In The Sea, nature coexists with the artist's imagination. Whistler induces a meditative mood through reductive composition, silvery light, semitransparent brushwork, harmonious pale colors, and flattened space ̶ all qualities that influenced the American Tonalists.' 6

Technique

Technique

Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ.
Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum, NJ.

The grey green sea is painted with an unusually large square brush, 2 cm (4") wide, which follows the curves of the waves like a ribbon. A palette knife has been used on the white waves. The boat is painted with a much smaller brush, in streaks of brown and blue.

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18

Frame: 28 7/8 x 45 3/4 x 3 ¼" (73.3 x 116.2 x 8.3 cm).

History

Provenance

Alfred Chapman owned several of Whistler's known paintings (Green and Grey. Channel y069, Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Bognor y100, Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Southampton Water y117, and Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Chelsea Snow y174) and some that have not hitherto been identified (Nocturne: Battersea Reach y160 and Cremorne y168).

Chapman was certainly starting to sell his collection of Whistlers by 1894, though it is not certain when he sold this particular painting. 7

Ann Y. Smith states that The Sea 'hung over the fireplace in Harris [Whittemore]'s living room. The [painting may even have inspired the remodeling of that room in 1915, when the upholstery and curtains were changed to blue damask, perhaps to complement the work's deep marine hues.' 8

Exhibitions

Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum
Green and Grey. Channel, Montclair Art Museum

It was listed as 'Blue and Gold. Channel', lent by Alfred Chapman, in the Goupil catalogue in 1892 (cat. no. 26) and called 'Green and Grey. Channel' in the catalogue as printed in the second edition of The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. 9

This painting (whether green or blue) was described in Vanity Fair as 'The beautiful breezy "Channel", wherein one can almost feel the wind that is sweeping both clouds and waves along', and in The World, 'as full of the rush of wind and wave as the heart of the most inveterate sailor could desire'. 10

The Sea, photograph, 1892, GUL Whistler PH4/6
The Sea, photograph, 1892, GUL Whistler PH4/6

Furthermore, it was photographed at that time, for possible inclusion in the Goupil Album, although in the end it was not published.

Whistler suggested to David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) that it could go on from the Goupil show to the VI. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1892, but it was not sent. 11

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, GUL Whistler PH6/18
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, GUL Whistler PH6/18

It is reproduced in a set of photographs of the Boston Memorial exhibition of 1904.

NOTE:

The 1980 catalogue raisonné was wrong in suggesting that Blue and Gold: Channel (Green and Grey. Channel) was exhibited in Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, 48 Pall Mall, London, 1874 (cat. no. 9) as 'Blue Waves' or in the 12th Exhibition, Society of French Artists, Deschamps Gallery, London, 1876 (cat. no. 149) as 'Nocturne, in Blue and Gold'. 12

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:

SALE:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. nos. 69 and 159).

2: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892, 1st and 2nd editions (cat. no. 26).

3: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 69).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 69).

5: Gerdts, William H., 'Introduction, The American Painting Collection of the Montclair Art Museum', website at http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/8aa/8aa144.htm reprinted in Resource Library on 25 July 2008.

6: Montclair Art Museum website at http://50.199.148.5:8081.

7: Whistler to A. A. Pope, [19 September 1894], GUW #09343.

8: Smith, Ann Y., Hidden in Plain Sight: The Whittemore Collection and the French Impressionists, Garnet Hill Publishing Co. and Mattatuck Historical Society, 2009, p. 70.

9: Whistler 1892 [more], p. 317.

10: Anon., 'Picture Shows', Vanity Fair, 26 March 1892; Anon., 'The Whistler Exhibition', The World, 23 March 1892; press cuttings in GUL Whistler PC 18, pp. 21, 10.

11: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [1/8 April 1892], GUW #08210.

12: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 159).