The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 088
The Three Girls

The Three Girls

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1867/1876
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: ca 139.7 x 185.4 cm (55 x 73")
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: painted decoration

Date

The Three Girls dates from between 1867 and 1876. 1 An oil sketch of the composition, The White Symphony: Three Girls y087, was probably painted in 1867; it may also have been worked on later. Related drawings date from between about 1867 and 1874.

The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art
The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art

1867: The Three Girls y088 was an enlarged version of The White Symphony: Three Girls y087 and was one of two large paintings commissioned by Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892) for his London house in 1867. Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) wrote that 'a large space at the opposite end of the room [to La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050] ... was reserved for the picture of "The Three Girls", which Mr. Leyland had commissioned Mr. Whistler to paint.' 2

On 27 August 1867 Whistler's mother wrote, 'now he [Whistler] is steadily at work in his Studio, for he has received orders for two pictures at 300 guineas each.' 3 The second of the 'two pictures' has not been identified, but may have related to one of five other sketches (Venus y082, Symphony in Green and Violet y083, Variations in Blue and Green y084, Symphony in White and Red y085, and Symphony in Blue and Pink y086), which were regarded by the Pennells as Whistler's first scheme of decoration for Leyland. 4

On 5 October 1867 Whistler wrote to Leyland, asking for £100 'on account', stating, 'I think that you will be pleased with the final oil sketch of your picture - The picture itself is getting on but I may not show for a week yet.' 5 He told George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), 'I am hard at work on a large picture', and he hoped to have it 'quite ready' for exhibition at the Royal Academy in the following year. 6

1868: Probably early in the year, Whistler wrote asking Leyland to send him the balance for 'your picture, which is steadily progressing - and depend upon me for it's [sic] completion as soon as possible,' and Leyland responded by paying the 'balance' of 50 gns. 7 A letter from Whistler dated 26 May, and probably written in 1868, acknowledges a cheque from Leyland: 'I have received your kind note of the 25th, enclosing £105. in addition to the price agreed to for the Garden picture.' 8

In the spring of 1868, Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), mentioned visiting Whistler's studio:

'The great picture which Mr. Whistler has now in hand is not yet finished enough for any critical detail to be possible; it shows already promise of a more majestic and excellent beauty of form than his earlier studies, and of the old delicacy and melody of ineffable colour. ... [in] a sketch for the great picture ... a garden balcony serve to set forth the flowers and figures of flowerlike women.' 9

On 24 July 1868 Whistler wrote to his solicitor, James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), 'Leyland who is in town might be coming to look at his picture and I am rather uncertain about leaving it.' 10 A few days later, on 28 July, William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) wrote in his diary that Whistler was 'doing on a largish scale for Leyland the subject of women and flowers.' 11

On 26 August Whistler, then recovering from illness, offered to show 'the picture I am working on' to the artist Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). 12 On 30 October, Whistler's mother mentioned that he worked in his studio all day, but 'we hope he will have more leisure, when his very large paintings are advanced further ... he is so interested in his Studies, he never complains of confinement or fatigue.' 13

Whistler had moved from 2 Lindsey Row, Chelsea, to the studio of Frederick Jameson (1839-1916) at 62 Great Russell Street by 14 December 1868. 14 Charles Samuel Keene (1823-1891) visited 'Jemmy W' in late December and told Edwin Edwards (1823-1879), 'I tried to persuade him to drive at 'em, I don't believe he'll finish em till he does.' 15 Jameson remembered Whistler's seven months in Great Russell Street as 'very unproductive and uneventful'; one picture, he said, was 'apparently completely finished' before being 'shaved down to the bed-rock mercilessly' by the dissatisfied artist. 16

1869: Things were no better in the following year, and on 11 March Mrs Whistler wrote to Leyland on Whistler's behalf:

'Yesterday the conviction was forced upon him that he should only ruin his work by persevering now in vain endeavours to finish your picture & that he must set it aside til he should be in better tone, mortifying tho it be to him, that it is not to be exhibited this Season. he is poor fellow more to be pitied than blamed, if mortal energy & industry could have accomplished it, his might, he has worked so hard night and day to attain his ambition, his first motive to please you who have been so indulgently patient, & also that it might have had a place in the new R Academy[,] he has only tried too hard to make it the perfection of Art, preying upon his mind unceasingly it has become more & and more impossible to satisfy himself.

Yesterday afternoon I was surprised by his coming to see me, as he has been too closely at work to spare time even to cheer me, but he said in explanation, "All Sons I believe come to their Mother in their difficulties, to ask help & find comfort" and then with his characteristic frankness he entered upon the details of his trying position, for he always confides in his Mother, who thus knows intimately all his failings & his virtues. "Leyland must be written to! but I cannot do it! You can dear Mother for me, ... Say to him I feel it right to put again in his hand the £400 he advanced as the price of the first picture, I dare say George will lend me that [amount] ... Say to Leyland that on my return to Chelsea, I will finish the two pictures he has ordered, before I begin any others, only beg him to believe I have not failed to do so before now, from lack of endeavor to gratify his wish and my own. I cannot even shew him the first in its present state.' 17

Leyland replied sympathetically and Whistler thanked him effusively: 'this miserable scrawl - which cannot express the affection I feel - If I am only able to show part of it feebly in the picture one of these days I shall be less pained than I am at present because of its long delay.' 18

In a letter to Thomas de Kay Winans (1820-1878), written after his return to 2 Lindsey Row in mid-1869, Whistler requested a loan of £500, and wrote,

'I have at this moment plenty of commissions for important pictures -... I am sure you will sympathize with my anxiety in my work which will not admit of my being contented with what merely "would sell" - For instance I had a large picture of three figures nearly life size fully under way - indeed far advanced towards completion - the owner delighted - and every one highly pleased with it. - except myself. - Instead of going on with it as it was, I wiped it clean out! scraped it off the canvass [sic] and put it aside that I might perfect myself in certain knowledge that I should overcome imperfections I found in my work, and now I expect shortly to begin it all over again from the very beginning! - But with a certainty that will carry me through in one third of the time! - The results of the education I have been giving myself these two years and more will show themselves in the time gained in my future work.' 19

1871: According to Way, on 'an ordinary white primed canvas ... [Whistler] had traced down a cartoon of the "Three Girls", having pricked it through in the old manner, and then outlined the figures with a red line', but instead of painting it, Whistler painted Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101 on the back. 20 There is no way of checking this statement, and even if it is true, no way of telling if it was the canvas for the original, rubbed down, or revised version of The Three Girls.

 Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian

A pen study of the whole composition, Study of 'The Three Girls' m0361, is dated (from the signature) 1871/1873.

1872: Whistler wrote to Leyland in November, 'You will I hope be pleased to hear that among other things I am well at work at your large picture of the three Girls and that it is going on with ease and pleasure to myself.' 21 Leyland, who had been posing for Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland y097, replied on 8 November 1872, 'I am glad you are working on the picture of the three Girls and I daresay your late work at life size portraits you will find has done you good and my own martyrdom has not been in vain.' 22

1873: In March Whistler invited Alan S. Cole to come and view 'my three Girls - "SYMPHONY IN WHITE AND RED - full palette"!' 23 About 1872/1873 Whistler designed and painted a frame for The Three Girls y088, but about 1879/1880 this frame was given to The Gold Scab y208.

1875: Whistler told Frances Leyland (1834-1910) 'I am painting on Leylands big picture - having at last found a beautiful creature to replace the "perfect woman" - though I fear I shall never absolutely believe any other ... her equal.' 24 On 4 September 1875 Whistler wrote to Leyland about his new model,

'I have fallen upon such a grand piece of good fortune in the way of a model with whom I have made an arrangement to sit to me altogether - with a view to at once going on with the two big pictures - She is simply adorable and comes by the way on Monday morning for the three girls.' 25

By 'Altogether' he meant nude. And shortly afterwards he told Mrs Leyland, 'the big picture grows every day in beauty ... my models have been behaving so well that I have been able to accomplish much - and am greatly encouraged.' 26

1876: Yet again, Mrs Leyland was told, 'I believe you will be pleased to hear, that my big picture grows and grows.' 27 On 10 April 1876 Whistler was described in the New York Herald as at work on 'the large picture, "Symphony in Red and White" '. 28 Way & Dennis stated: 'Whistler began to paint the finished picture ... on more than one canvas ... and it was intended to be hung in the Peacock Room' – Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room y178 – which Whistler decorated for Leyland in 1876-1877. 29

1877: By summer relations with Leyland had deteriorated completely, in the dispute over the cost of 'The Peacock Room'. Leyland wrote to Whistler on 24 July:

'At various times during the last eight or nine years you have received from me sums amounting to one thousand guineas for pictures, not one of which have ever been delivered; nor indeed during the whole of our acquaintance have you finished for me a single thing for which you have been paid.' 30

Whistler replied, concerning The Three Girls, 'A fourth painting for which you have paid me is an imaginative picture which can only be finished under certain conditions - In regard to this work I will do one of two things - I will either finish it for you - or I will paint it and sell it, and repay you the four hundred guineas which you paid me for it.' 31 Leyland was not satisfied:

'As respects the fourth painting it is difficult to understand what are the conditions you find necessary for its completion.

You have been paid for it nine years ago and however imaginative the work may be, it is high time now that it should be delivered if it is ever to be finished.

Your proposal that I should wait for its completion and then let you sell it is quite unnecessary. I can do that myself.' 32

1878: Walter Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832-1914) wrote on Leyland's behalf asking for clarification of Whistler's intentions with regard to 'the property he has bought and paid for' and Whistler replied that he would repay the 400 gns. as soon as possible. 33

Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) remembered:

'Just before sending in time for the second Grosvenor Exhibition [1878] he [Whistler] had a show day, and many people came to see his pictures. There were, I think, only three on view ... [including] the unfinished picture of the "Three Girls" ... The figures were at that time nearly in the nude, and I do not think Whistler did much to them afterwards, so that the picture probably never reached the ideal arrived at in the sketch which he afterwards sold to my father, and which is now in Mr. Freer's collection [The White Symphony: Three Girls y087] ... He had been at work upon this subject for years.' 34

1879: A visitor to the White House on 18 March 1879 saw two pictures (The Three Girls and Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Gold Girl - Connie Gilchrist y190) that 'he [Whistler] is now at work upon for the exhibitions' and described The Three Girls as 'a large one, though the figures are not life-size; it is the interior of a hothouse ... three maidens in light classic raiment are gathered about a flowering aloe.' 35

Whistler was declared bankrupt in May. He destroyed and scraped down many pictures, to prevent them falling into the hands of creditors, or being sold by the official Receiver, James Waddell (1838-1892). 36

An oil copy of The Three Girls, Pink and Grey: Three Figures y089, was made by Whistler in early September 1879. The original canvas of The Three Girls was destroyed except for a fragment cut from the left side of the canvas, now known as Girl with Cherry Blossom y090.

Images

The Three Girls, whereabouts unknown
The Three Girls, whereabouts unknown

The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art
The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art

Pink and Grey: Three Figures, 1879, Tate
Pink and Grey: Three Figures, 1879, Tate

 Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian


Girl with Cherry Blossom, 1867/1878, Courtauld Institute of Art
Girl with Cherry Blossom, 1867/1878, Courtauld Institute of Art

A nude with a parasol and a jug, ca 1869, The Hunterian
A nude with a parasol and a jug, ca 1869, The Hunterian

Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art
Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art

 The Lily, 1870/1872, Freer Gallery of Art
The Lily, 1870/1872, Freer Gallery of Art

 Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1870/1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1870/1873, The Hunterian

 A nude holding up a parasol, 1870/1873, The Hunterian
A nude holding up a parasol, 1870/1873, The Hunterian

 Girl with parasol, 1872, Private collection
Girl with parasol, 1872, Private collection

Nude with parasol, 1870/1873, Amherst College
Nude with parasol, 1870/1873, Amherst College

The Gold Scab, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Gold Scab, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Subject

Titles

Possible titles include:

'The Three Girls' is the generally accepted title.

Whistler's invitation to Alan S. Cole in 1873 to view 'the "Three Girls" - "Symphony in White and Red - full palette"!' suggests that he also had this painting in mind when he told the American artist Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909):

'His most ambitious desire was to paint a grand concerto-like picture with the title "Full Palette" – "just as in music", he [Whistler] explained, "when they employ all the instruments they make it 'Full Band'. If I can find the right kind of thing I will produce a harmony in color corresponding to Beethoven's harmonies in sound." ' 44

Description

Pink and Grey: Three Figures, Tate
Pink and Grey: Three Figures, Tate

The Three Girls y088 was copied by Whistler before it was destroyed, so, if the copy, Pink and Grey: Three Figures y089 was accurate, the original was a figure composition in horizontal format. Based on this copy, it appears that The Three Girls showed three women in diaphanous white robes in a garden or conservatory. The woman at left stood bending forward to right, with her hands on her knees. The woman in the centre crouched facing to right, with her arms reaching out to a flowering cherry tree in a pot on a low table. At far right there was a flower in a blue and white vase. The woman at right, facing left, had a red headband or scarf; her left arm crossed her body, holding over her right shoulder a large parasol. Behind them was a shoulder-high fence. Awnings or blinds hung on a framework visible above the fence. A rug and a robe lay on the floor.

Sitter

According to Mary Glenn Perine (1822-1896), she saw Emelie 'Millie' Eyre Jones (1850-1920) posing for The Three Girls on 20 June 1868. 45 Augusta Maria Jones (fl. 1865), may also have posed. 46

 Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1870/1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1870/1873, The Hunterian

There were probably several models, possibly including Matilda Maria Gilchrist née Potter (1826-1886), who posed for the drypoint Tillie: A Model [113], in the same pose (in reverse as printed) as the standing figure at left, and presumably for the drawing reproduced above, Study for 'Tillie: A Model' m0369.

Comments

Robin Spencer pointed out the relationship between the composition of The Three Girls y088 and that of Albert Moore's three figure composition, Pomegranates (Guildhall Art Gallery, London) of 1866. The two figures, the setting and use of drapery in The Shunamite (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) are also comparable to the left and right-hand figures in The Three Girls y088. 47

Technique

Composition

The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art
The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art

Pink and Grey: Three Figures, Tate
Pink and Grey: Three Figures, Tate

 Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'The Three Girls', 1871/1873, The Hunterian

It is difficult to reconstruct the exact appearance of The Three Girls y088 but the pen drawing in the Hunterian, the small oil sketch (The White Symphony: Three Girls y087), and the large painting of the central figure (Girl with Cherry Blossom y090) appear to correspond closely to each other, while the copy (Pink and Grey: Three Figures y089) shows some variations and may have been later altered by the artist.

The pen drawing, Study of 'The Three Girls' m0361, shows two details not incorporated in the oil versions, in that both flower pots are round instead of straight sided, and that it is signed with a butterfly of about 1871/1874 (the oil sketch, The White Symphony: Three Girls y087, has the rectangular field but no butterfly).

DRAWINGS:

According to T. R. Way, 'numberless studies' were drawn in preparation for The Three Girls y088 . 48

 A nude holding up a parasol, 1870/1873, The Hunterian
A nude holding up a parasol, 1870/1873, The Hunterian

Nude with parasol,  1870/1873, Amherst College
Nude with parasol, 1870/1873, Amherst College

There are numerous drawings for the composition, which are discussed in relation to The White Symphony: Three Girls y087, but also relate to this enlarged version of the composition, The Three Girls y088. These include A nude holding up a parasol m0372 (reproduced above), Nude with parasol m0371, and another Nude with parasol m0373 (seen above).

verso: A nude with a parasol and a jug, ca 1869, The Hunterian
verso: A nude with a parasol and a jug, ca 1869, The Hunterian

verso: Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art
verso: Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls, Freer Gallery of Art

verso: Girl with parasol, 1872/1873, Private collection
verso: Girl with parasol, 1872/1873, Private collection

Several of the early studies for the nude with the parasol are on the back of other drawings. 49 Pinholes in the paper suggest that some were pinned up for reference more than once but it is impossible to tell which side was being consulted.

Crouching figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls', 1867/1870, Freer Gallery of Art
Crouching figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls', 1867/1870, Freer Gallery of Art

One sheet dating from 1869/1870 contains two drawings: r.: Crouching figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls'; v.: Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls' m0359. It has a partial sketch of the standing figure on one side, and an elaborately finished one of the central figure on the other.

 Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1873, The Hunterian
Study of 'Tillie: A Model', 1873, The Hunterian

There are numerous drawings for the figure on the left, some of which could well be studies for a closely related drypoint, Tillie: A Model [113]. These include Tillie m0367, Study of a Nude m0368, Study for 'Tillie: A Model' m0369 (reproduced above), and Tillie: Study in Pink and Mauve m0370. Some of these were reworked later; Tillie: Study in Pink and Mauve was completed and signed in 1890.

T. R. Way, who was in and out of Whistler's studio in the late 1870s, wrote later, 'I saw at least three distinct variations in oil sketches, and an immense number of drawings of the various figures in black and white and pastel on brown paper, some in the nude, some with drapery added.' 50

Technique

There is no information about Whistler's technique except that it involved repeatedly rubbing down the entire canvas.

Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101 has been relined so it is impossible to substantiate Way's statement that Whistler originally drew a version of the design for The Three Girls y088 on the canvas later used for Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101. In size Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101 is 114.3 x 162.5 cm (56 ¾ x 64").

Whistler said that he painted a copy (Pink and Grey: Three Figures y089) of The Three Girls y088 'on the same size canvas' – that is, 139.7 x 185.4 cm (55 x 73") . 51


                    Girl with Cherry Blossom, 1867/1878, Courtauld Institute of Art
Girl with Cherry Blossom, 1867/1878, Courtauld Institute of Art

Girl with Cherry Blossom y090, which may well have once formed the central section of The Three Girls y088, is close to Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101 in height, being 139.2 cm (54 ¾").

Conservation History

The painting was probably destroyed by the artist. It is likely that Girl with Cherry Blossom y090 formed the central section of the canvas.

Frame

The Gold Scab, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Gold Scab, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The original frame, designed and painted by Whistler about 1872/1873, was given in 1879 to The Gold Scab y208, which measures 186.7 x 139.7 cm (73 1/2 x 55").

History

Provenance

On 7 May 1879 Whistler was declared bankrupt, and his possessions, including The Three Girls y088, were put in the hands of Messrs Waddell & Co., trustees of Whistler's bankrupt estate. 52 On 25 August 1879 Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) asked Whistler to 'state "distinctly and in writing" what you will give in work if I secure for you ... The three girls', from Whistler's bankrupt estate. 53

Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885) told Whistler that a clerk had taken several paintings to Sotheby's, 'The clerk who fetched them having orders to take all canvasses & to leave the frames &c to you - this is perhaps good as regards the greek girls, it may fetch less - to buy in - all frames &c have been sent to the Doctors.' 54 However it certainly was not sold at Sotheby's.

Writing from Venice on 22 March 1880 to his sister-in-law Helen E. Whistler, Whistler expressed surprise at hearing of the disappearance of The Three Girls y088, saying that on one of the last days in the White House he remembered painting 'a rough copy, or commencement of a copy of the 3 girls', [the copy is Pink and Grey: Three Figures y089], and that he was reliably informed the original 'Three Girls' had been cut from its stretcher for the trustees, and that he recalled moving it himself from the home of his brother, Dr William Whistler in Wimpole Street, to the White House, where it was to be sold together with other pictures and effects on 18 September 1879. His somewhat complicated letter reads as follows:

'… I don't quite know what to say about the Waddell matter ... you say which of the three pictures are the two to be shown - and then you only speak of "the 3 girls, and the Boy or Girl in blue" ... by all means show the Three Girls ... Now I dont quite understand how you have these at all, for I certainly believed that I had moved both the 3 girls ... back from Wimpole Street to the White House and left them there for the sale - They were not at the sale I know from what both Way and Elden have written[.] Were they then sent back? - If so, and only with Waddell's permission ... what more can he have to say about it at all - On the other hand I understood Elden long ago to say that the 3 girls were cut off their stretcher and carried away by the trustees' people - And here is his last letter just received ... According to him you see that the 3 Girls ... etc - were carried off by auctioneers - and have been since missing ... then how on earth can the missing 3 girls turn up at the Doctor's? Now … on one of the last days in the White House I painted a rough copy, or commencement of a copy, of the 3 girls - on the same size canvas ... Now if this be the 3 girls you have - then ... most certainly do they belong to no one but myself - as they were done after the settlement of my affairs - Willie can like a good fellow just run round the corner to Lewis by 9 ... However do send for Elden who knows all about it - Way also ... Doubtless Leyland is at the bottom of the affair - but I don't see how, the sale being over, the[y] can try to recommence matters ... Again if the original 3 girls be in your possession, then say that Waddell may have them if Lewis thinks so.' 55

In a further convoluted letter from Venice, Whistler urged his sister-in-law to discover the whereabouts of The Three Girls:

'The 3 girls may be in pawn or otherwise disposed of Howell, or kept by him for future transaction! - Why might he not purpose by and bye showing the original as a copy "painted you know expressly for me by Whistler many years ago old chap!" ... and meanwhile induce the Waddells to believe that the copy he knows you to have is the original "3 girls" now missing! - How capital it would be if we could trace this little purloining business back to Leyland !! ... Wouldn't it be well if Willie were to call on Waddell by appointment some morning and simply say to him ... I know perfectly what you are looking for Mr. Waddell, and I have not got them! ... I wished to ... tell you how outraged my brother is at the mysterious and altogether unaccountable disappearance of the 3 girls ... he is determined, not only for the satisfaction of all concerned but for himself, to discover the pictures" ... Then he can take him to Wimpole Street and show him the three Girls ... tell him that this is a rough copy made from the original when that was given to the Creditors - made when everything that I did was to be my own according to Waddell's assurance ... explain that this with the other rags and destroyed canvases were left in the studio and brought finally to you by his direction or permission ... these are not the pictures he is after - that I am after also ... Let Elden go with Willie - he can tell him about my doing the copy - and also all that John had said about the departure of the 3 girls ... from the White House upon an Auctioneers order - The man in pos[s]ession (Watson) could also tell the story.' 56

A further letter from Elden clarified the sequence of events and added a further complication!

'Just a word about the lost pictures - Waddells it turns out had received them as being valueless & I suppose with the intention of returning them to you ... and at the meeting on Thursday last Way & Leyland - the only Trustees present [-] the canvasses in dispute were unrolled & Leyland on seeing the 3 girls said ... that is my picture and I shall fight for it ... Way sent for me and his position is that these things must be put up for sale - that whatever dispute [be]tween Leyland & Whistler at the meeting for liquidation - Leyland became an ordinary creditor - and cant take advantage of his position of Trustee to settle trifles to his own advantage[,] the picture too not being the one commissioned by him - so the matter stands for the moment.' 57

Thomas Way (1837-1915) brought Whistler’s brother William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900) up to date:

'We have had our final meeting and nothing more is to be said about the 3 Girls or the pictures at yours about which bye [sic] the way Mr Leyland was good enough to take my word that they were of no commercial value & did not belong to the Estate. I think you will be surprised at Mr Lewis's proceeding.

Everything was arranged as well as I could wish - My offer for the canvasses &c accepted - the two with you to be left unmolested and the question of Mr Leylands claim to be referred to the decision of Lewis. We were on our legs ready to go - when in came the Clerk from him - with the decision that Mr Leyland's claim was indefensable [sic] and that the picture must be delivered to him forthwith!' 58

It is not clear if Leyland did then receive a canvas of The Three Girls or not, and there are no further suggestions as to what happened to the original canvas, nor any record of its subsequent history, although it is likely that Girl with Cherry Blossom y090 once formed a part of it.

Exhibitions

As the painting was never completed, it was also never exhibited.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: 1872/1875, YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 88).

2: Way & Dennis 1903 [more], p. 100.

3: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, GUW #06535.

4: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 149.

5: 5 October [1867], GUW #08793.

6: [12 December 1867], GUW #09195.

7: Whistler to Leyland, [1867/1868], GUW #08788.

8: GUW #08789.

9: Swinburne 1875 [more], p. 360.

10: GUW #11849.

11: Rossetti 1903 [more], p. 320.

12: 20 and 29 August [1868], GUW #08997 and #10069.

13: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 30 October [1868], GUW #06537.

14: A. M. Whistler to Miss Hill, 14 December 1868, GUW #11473.

15: C. S. Keene to E. Edwards, [20 December 1868] and 1 January 1879, GUW #12711 and #12712.

16: Quoted by Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 148.

17: 11 March [1869], GUW #08182.

18: [May/June 1869], GUW #08792.

19: [September/November 1869], GUW #10632.

20: Way 1912 [more], p. 71.

21: [2/9 November 1872], GUW #08794.

22: GUW #02565.

23: [March 1873], GUW #09022.

24: [20 August/4 September 1875], GUW #08052.

25: 4 September [1875], GUW #11866.

26: [18/25 September 1875], GUW #08053.

27: [March/May 1876], GUW #08056.

28: 'American Artists in London, What they have done for Philadelphia', New York Herald, New York, 10 April 1876, p. 5. Press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 2, p. 2.

29: Way & Dennis 1903 [more], p. 31.

30: GUW #02593.

31: Draft, 25 July [1877], GUW #02596.

32: 27 July 1877, GUW #02598.

33: Watts-Dunton to Whistler, 1 February 1878, GUW #06072; reply, 2 February [1878], GUW #09577.

34: Way 1912 [more], pp. 25-28.

35: 'A. De G. S.',unidentified press cutting; GUL Whistler PC9.

36: See MacDonald, Margaret, 'Bankruptcy', online.

37: Whistler to F. R. Leyland, 26 May 1868, GUW #08789.

38: Whistler to F. R. Leyland, [2/9 November 1872], GUW #08794.

39: Whistler to A. S. Cole, March 1873, GUW #09022.

40: 'American Artists in London, What they have done for Philadelphia', New York Herald, New York, 10 April 1876, p. 5.

41: [February 1880], GUW #01049.

42: Way & Dennis 1903 [more], p. 30.

43: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 88).

44: Bacher 1906 [more], pp. 58-59.

45: Diary, Maryland Historical Society Library, Manuscripts Division, Baltimore, MD.

46: See Whistler to E. E. Jones, and to A. Jones, [February 1868/1869], GUW #09173 and #09175; Whistler to E. E. Jones, [13 February 1869], GUW #09169.

47: Spencer 1972 [more], pp. 34-35.

48: Way & Dennis 1903 [more], p. 30.

49: r.: Inspiration; v.: A nude with a parasol and a jug m0358, r.: Crouching figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls'; v.: Standing figure in 'The White Symphony: Three Girls' m0359, r.: A Japanese Woman; v.: Girl with parasol m0458.

50: Way 1912 [more], p. 27.

51: Whistler to Helen Whistler (Mrs W. Whistler), [22 March 1880], GUW #06688.

52: The London Bankruptcy Court, GUW #11711.

53: GUW #02187.

54: [February 1880], GUW #01049.

55: GUW #06688.

56: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [March 1880], GUW #06689.

57: 12 April [1880], GUW #01048.

58: 15 April 1880, GUW #06081.