The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 095
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1870/1873
Collection: Colby College Museum of Art
Accession Number: 2013.306
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 30.5 x 21.0 cm (12 x 8 1/4")
Signature: none
Inscription: none
Frame: modern

Date

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland dates from between 1870 and 1873. 1

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art

It is a study for Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland y097, which is so dated.

Images

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, photograph, n.d., GUL WPP
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, photograph, n.d., GUL WPP

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art

Subject

Titles

The suggested title is as follows:

Description

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art

A small full-length portrait of a bearded man dressed in a black suit, in vertical format. He leans on a slender cane with his left hand. His right hand is raised to his neck as if adjusting a cravat. His body is turned very slightly to his right, the head slightly tilted, facing the viewer. Two lines suggest a low dado on the wall behind and to left, but only one line (the upper one) is continued to right of the figure.

Sitter

Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), Liverpool ship-owner, merchant and collector, was Whistler's major patron during the early 1870s.

Technique

Composition

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Freer Gallery of Art

Andrew McLaren Young (1913-1975) thought that it was probably the earliest study for the portrait of Leyland (Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland y097) and suggested that the streak on the left might be where Whistler had tried out three different positions for a butterfly. 3 The figure is standing three-quarter left, the opposite way to that in the final painting, but facing the viewer.

Linda Merrill writes:

'An oil sketch embodying an early conception of Whistler's portrait portrays a more mature man, fully bearded and sturdily authoritative. Leyland wears a fashionably short frock coat that breaks up the long lines of his figure, which forms a black silhouette against a vacant gray wall.' 4

Technique

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art

A fine weave canvas, thinly painted, almost bare of paint at the right edge. There are blurred edges and signs of alterations to the outlines of the figure, particularly the legs. The whole figure may originally have been slightly further left. Short, rounded brushstrokes in pale flesh-pink paint roughly define the hands and face.

Conservation History

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, photograph, n.d., GUL
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, photograph, n.d., GUL

Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art
Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland, Colby College Museum of Art

It appears to have been either abraded or rubbed down at the edges, and round the feet and legs of the model, where the canvas shows through the paint. An undated photograph (before 1980?) suggests the abraded area at lower right has been restored. It is also slightly abraded at the edges, probably from the frame.

Frame

A broad, gilded, wooden modern frame.

History

Provenance

The history of this sketch is difficult to establish. According to Ernest George Brown (1851-1915) of The Fine Art Society, it was bought by M. H. A. Spielmann at Whistler's bankruptcy sale at Sotheby's on 12 February 1880, but if so it was not catalogued, nor mentioned in documents or letters at the time. 5 It is quite possible that it was among works left in the studio because they were considered incomplete or damaged, but was acquired by Spielman at that time, possibly directly from the artist. Again according to Brown, it was given by Spielmann to Brandon Thomas on 18 May 1885.

The London art dealers, Colnaghi, collected it from Thomas on 15 April 1905 for the 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 (ex catalogue). 6 There is no record of the sketch thereafter, and it may have belonged to Brandon Thomas until his death in 1914. His daughter, the actress Amy Marguerite Brandon Thomas (Mrs Barnes-Brand) (1890-1974) was painted by Whistler in 1890 (Portrait of Miss Amy Brandon Thomas y392). She inherited her own portrait and could possibly have inherited the sketch of Leyland as well.

According to a relative of the publisher William Heinemann (1863-1920), he at one time owned a sketch of Leyland, possibly Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland y095 or Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland y096, which in 1911 was in the possession of Deschechierres (dates unknown) of Paris, a friend of William Heinemann. 7 It has not been possible to confirm this.

There are further gaps in the provenance as it went around art dealers in London and New York. At some time it was with The Fine Art Society, London. It was bought from Arthur Tooth by Colnaghi's in 1932, exhibited at the Adams Gallery in Pall Mall in February 1939, but sold by Colnaghi's to Alphonse Kann in June 1943. It was acquired by Anthony d'Offay in April 1969, exhibited back at Colnaghi's in 1971, but sold by d'Offay at Parke-Bernet in 1972, when it was purchased by Knoedler's of New York. It was briefly with Karnemann Enterprises, New York, in 1977, but sold by Knoedler's in the following year to Ross Spencer.

Exhibitions

The London art dealers, Colnaghi, collected it from Thomas on 15 April 1905 for the Whistler memorial exhibition but it is not in the catalogue.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

EXHIBITION:

SALE:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 95).

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 95).

3: GUL WPP files.

4: Merrill 1998 [more], p. 127, fig. 3.11.

5: Letter, gallery records.

6: Colnaghi to Thomas, GUL Whistler AM 1965 T/22.

7: D. Heinemann to Pennell, 28 September 1911, LC PC.