The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 097
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1870-1873
Collection: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: F1905.100a-b
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 192.8 x 91.9 cm (75 7/8 x 36 1/8")
Signature: none
Inscription: none
Frame: Portrait Whistler, American, after 1905

Date

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland was painted at intervals from 1870 to 1873.

1870: The portrait was commissioned by the sitter, Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), and first mentioned by Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), as being painted at Leyland's residence near Liverpool in August 1870. On 7 September she wrote that Whistler 'has been staying at Speke Hall four weeks. He is there to paint a full length life size portrait of Mr Leyland, which he writes me is getting on capitally.' 1 To another friend in America, she wrote:

'Speke Hall ... he has been there four weeks now & as he went for more than a mere holiday, to paint a life-size full length portrait of Mr Leyland his host he is to stay to finish that work. of course as his friend Mr L goes in & out to his business house in Liverpool daily, the Artist cannot confine himself to his Easel as he does too closely in his own Studio here.' 2

1871: In October 1871 the unfinished portrait was hanging at Speke Hall. 3

1872: It may have been among the '3 cases of portraits' saved from a fire on the train bringing Whistler's paintings from Speke to London, before sittings resumed in Whistler's London studio, as his mother recorded:

'I was tolerably well at the middle of Feb when Jemmie came home & resumed his work here. Lucy lost her father then & fretted herself ill, so that I had great exertions to make[,] Mr Leyland lunching with us while Jemmie had the favor of his posing.' 4

On 13 March Whistler's mother wrote that he hoped to complete it in time to send to the Royal Academy:

'We are in the pressure of the Season, & he begins work directly after our eight ocl breakfast regularly. he is perfecting the Portrait of Mr Leyland & trying to finish a beautiful life size of Mrs L, the pictures must be sent to the Royal Academy the 1st or 2nd day of April, though the Exhibition is not to be til a month later. I will not build castles or anticipate rewards to Jemie's diligence.' 5

Neither of the Leyland portraits were ready for exhibition that year, and Whistler's tolerant mother wrote that he was hoping to complete Leyland's portrait for exhibition at the Academy in the following year. 6 On 8 November 1872 Leyland described the sittings as 'my own martyrdom': '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 not been in vain.' 7

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

1873: Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934) recorded in his diary that the portrait of Leyland was in progress, '16 February. To breakfast off blue and white. His portrait of Leyland then in hand - saw it.' 8 Whistler's biographers, the Pennells, thought that it was completed in the winter of 1873. 9

1874: According to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), who wrote that 'the head of Leyland is very like him', Whistler persuaded Leyland to subsidise a one-man show at the Flemish Gallery where the Leyland portraits, including 'Portrait, "Arrangement in Black" ', were exhibited. 10

1877: On 25 July, after the breakdown of relations between artist and patron over Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room y178, Whistler wrote to Leyland:

'You say that during the whole of our acquaintance I "have never finished for you a single thing for which I have been paid" -

I have in my possession two portraits which, though publicly approved of, my own artistic scruples alone have prevented me from forwarding to you who are their owner - They shall be sent at once.' 11

Leyland replied, 'I quite appreciate your "artistic scruples" to deliver the two portraits which you consider finished and I must say these scruples are uncommonly well founded. I am however willing to receive them as they are.' 12 A few days later, on 29 July 1877, A. S. Cole wrote in his diary that Whistler had shown him the portrait, then still in the studio. 13

1878: On 20 January 1878 A. S. Cole said that Whistler had a 'copy of his portrait of Leyland' in his studio, but there is no trace of such a work, and it could actually have been this portrait. 14 Leyland's portrait was seen at Whistler's new house, the White House in Tite Street, by Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) at some time in 1878 or 1879. 15 Whistler wrote to Walter Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832-1914) in February 1878 that he meant to deliver the portrait to Leyland despite Leyland's lack of appreciation.

'It is far from my wish to rob Leyland of any real right - whatever may be my opinion of his conduct - The portraits of himself and Mrs Leyland I have witheld [sic] because of certain remarks in one of his letters impugning their artistic value, and whereas I do not acknowledge that a picture once bought merely belongs to the man who pays the money, but that it is the property of the whole world, I consider that I have a right to exhibit such picture that its' [sic] character may be guaranteed by brother artists - therefore it was my intention to show, in a public exposition these two paintings this spring - and thereupon restore them to their chance purchaser.' 16

Images

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

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

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, frame detail
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, frame detail

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

Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland, Whereabouts unknown
Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland, Whereabouts unknown

Portrait study of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait study of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Hunterian
Caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Hunterian

The Gold Scab, California Palace of The Legion of Honor
The Gold Scab, California Palace of The Legion of Honor

Frederick Parsons, F. R. Leyland, photograph
Frederick Parsons, F. R. Leyland, photograph

Subject

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

'Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland' is the preferred title.

The 'Arrangements in Black' are numbered inconsistently, roughly as follows:

Description

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

A full-length portrait of a man dressed in a black suit, in vertical format. He stands with his right foot forward, his right hand on his hip. The left hand is hidden by a grey coat hanging over his arm. A silver buckle is visible on one shoe. He has dark hair, a moustache and beard, and stands in slight three-quarter view to right, against a black background.

Sitter

Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), collector and shipping magnate.

Frederick Parsons, F. R. Leyland, photograph
Frederick Parsons, F. R. Leyland, photograph

An albumen print by John Robert Parsons (1925/1826-1909) (a photographer also patronised by Whistler) shows Leyland in the 1860s. 20

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) knew Leyland and had made elaborate drawings of him; he wrote of Whistler's portrait that 'the head of Leyland is very like him.' 21

Leyland, a wealthy ship-owner, was Whistler's major patron in the 1870s, until their confrontation over Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room y178. 22 Curry notes that in this portrait the black dinner suit 'signals economic if not social power; it is the colour of mastery, new money as well as old embraced it.' 23

According to Walter Greaves (1846-1930), Whistler kept rubbing the portrait down, and eventually got 'a well known Italian model named Fosco to pose nude for the figure.' 24 Whistler made a drypoint of the Italian model, probably named Fusco (fl. 1870s) rather than 'Fosco', about the same time. Fusco [106] shows the model posing in the nude, but in a pose unrelated to the oil portrait. 'Fusco' appears to have been a professional model. He may have been a model at life-classes organised by Victor Aristide Louis Barthe (b. ca 1839-d.1910), which Whistler attended in the 1870s. Fusco is a fairly uncommon name, but there was a family of that name based in Bradford, and later Edinburgh. For instance, in the 1881 census two Italian-born British subjects, Benedetto Fusco, aged 30, and Michelangelo Fusco, aged 23, travelling musicians, were recorded in Bradford, Yorkshire. 25

Portrait study of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait study of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of Frederick R. Leyland, Metropolitan Museum of Art

There are two drawings of Leyland by Whistler, not related to the oil, r.: Portrait study of Frederick R. Leyland; v.: Head of a boy m0425 and Portrait of Frederick R. Leyland m0426.

The Gold Scab, California Palace of The Legion of Honor
The Gold Scab, California Palace of The Legion of Honor

Caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Hunterian
Caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Hunterian

At the time of the 'Peacock Room' dispute, Whistler painted a grotesque oil, The Gold Scab y208, and several caricatures (F. R. Leyland m0721 and Caricature of F. R. Leyland m0720). These drawings mock the frilled shirt favoured by Leyland, which is a prominent feature in the oil portraits. Evening shirts with ruffles had once been a conspicuous feature of male fashion, but were rather passé in 1870 and totally outmoded by the time the portrait was exhibited in 1874. 26

Technique

Composition

Both Curry and Merrill note that the pose and dress of Leyland seen in the Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland y096, and developed in Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland y097, are comparable to those in a portrait by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660) of Philip IV (1623, Museo Nacional del Prado), of which Whistler had photographs. 27 It is not, however, certain when the artist acquired these photographs. 28

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

Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland, Whereabouts Unknown
Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland, Whereabouts Unknown

There are two preliminary oil sketches related to the portrait of Leyland, Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland y095 and Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland y096, reproduced above. They suggest a paler background was envisaged. The first shows Leyland turned slightly to his right, but looking at the viewer, with one hand at his throat, the other leaning on a cane. The second sketch is much closer to the final pose.

Technique

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

According to the Pennells, both the painter Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1836-1904) and Whistler's pupil Walter Greaves (1846-1930) said that Whistler had trouble painting Leyland's legs and had a nude model to pose for them. 29 Pentimenti show that Leyland's right leg was originally further to the left. The legs have in fact been made to appear more slender. The foot was tried out in various positions. There are signs of alterations to his right arm as well.

According to Walter Greaves, Whistler kept rubbing the portrait down, and eventually got 'a well known Italian model named Fosco to pose nude for the figure.' He added:

'Whistler would first of all paint the figure in flesh-coloured distemper, then add on the dress suit, then go over it in oil colour, then rub it all out and begin all over again. After about a year and a half he finished it and then said to me, "Now then, Walter, don't you think it is a very beautiful picture?" and it did turn out a very fine work of art, but the painting of it was a caution.' 30

Greaves added that one day Whistler's mother wished to see Leyland's portrait:

'the figure was at the time painted in the nude (in distemper). However she so insisted on seeing it that I had no alternative but to turn the canvas round from the wall. Then she remarked, "Oh dear! oh dear! I thought the picture was finished a long while ago; when will my son finish it?".' 31

The painting does not really show the traces of the long and frequent sittings that preceded it. Much of it is evenly and fairly thinly painted, this accentuated by some rubbing down, on the face for instance. The face and hands are carefully modelled, the final brushstrokes and highlights clearly differentiated. The frills of the shirt front are painted very freely with separate brushstrokes in creamy-textured bright white paint. The final flashy pink brushlike on his hands is pulled down into a point, so that his fingers appear pointed. The area above his head appears quite thickly painted, the brushstrokes curving around his head and presumably intended to be darker than his head.

Conservation History

The Freer Gallery files record that the painting was repaired in 1923; cleaned in 1922, 1923, 1935, 1951; resurfaced in 1923, 1937, 1951, 1952-53; the varnish and retouching was removed, and it was partially cleaned and inpainted, before being revarnished by Ben Johnson in 1965.

Frame

Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, The Frick Collection, NY
Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, The Frick Collection, NY

Since Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland y097 was exhibited in 1874 with Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland y106, it may have had a similar flat profiled decorated frame.

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

Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, frame detail
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, frame detail

It is now in a Grau-style portrait frame, which probably dates from when Freer purchased it in 1905: it may be American/Detroit made. 33

History

Provenance

It was commissioned by the sitter and first mentioned as being painted at his residence, Speke Hall near Liverpool, in August 1870. 34 After his quarrel with Leyland, Whistler had no further sittings from Leyland, nor did he send Leyland the completed portrait. Whistler wrote to T. Watts-Dunton in February 1878 that he meant to deliver it but had not done so because Leyland did not seem to appreciate it. 35

According to Jacques Émile Blanche (1861-1942), he saw 'les Leyland', which he described as a series of arrangements 'en noir et brun', in Whistler's Tite Street studio about 1884. 36 However, it is actually unlikely that the portrait of Leyland was still there.

The portrait passed on the sitter's death to his daughter, Florence Leyland, Mrs Val Prinsep. In 1905, after the Whistler Memorial exhibition in London, it was bought by C. L. Freer from the gambler and collector, R. A. Canfield, through Marchant, for £3000.

Exhibitions

In November 1872, Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), wrote that he was hoping to complete the portrait for the Royal Academy the following year, but it was not eventually submitted. 37 According to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Whistler 'must have finished the Leyland portraits, and persuaded L. that they were sure to be hung badly if sent to the R.A. - whereupon L., rather than see himself hoisted, paid bang out for an independent show of them.' 38

Reviewing the 1874 exhibition, the art critic of the Pall Mall Gazette described the portrait of Leyland as 'a most remarkable specimen of the art' and commended Whistler's work as 'an accomplishment of the strongest and most original kind.' 39

A review of this 'independent show' in The Hour, in 1874, inspired a letter from Whistler to the editor:

'I have read the intelligent remarks of your critic upon my pictures, and am happy to be able to remove, I think, the "melancholy" impression left upon his mind by the supposition that "the best works are not of recent date." Permit me to reassure him, for the paintings he speaks of in glowing terms - notably "the full-length portrait of a young girl," which he overwhelms me by comparing to Velasquez, as well as the two life-size portraits in black, "in which there is an almost entire negation of colour" (though I, who am, he says, a colourist, did not know it) - are my latest works, and but just completed. ...

… it was from no feeling that "my works were not seen to advantage when placed in juxtaposition with those of an essentially different kind," that I "determined to have an exhibition of my own, where [no] discordant elements should distract the spectator's attention." It is true that occasionally it has been borne in upon my mind that those whose "works are of an essentially different kind" are unwilling to place mine in juxtaposition with their own.

My wish has been, though, to prove that the place in which works of art are shown may be made as free from "discordant elements which distract the spectators' attention" as the works themselves.

Marvelling greatly that the "principle" that has led me (in his eyes at least) to paint so that he speaks of me in the same breath with Velasquez, should be "founded on fallacy," -

I remain, sir, your obedient servant, [butterfly] 40

By the terms of C. L. Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, the painting cannot be lent to any other venue.

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: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 7 September 1870, GUW #06545.

2: A. M. Whistler to M. G. Hill, [8-9] September [1870], GUW #07642.

3: A. M. Whistler to K. Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, GUW #10071.

4: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 10 April 1872, GUW #06549.

5: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 13 March 1872, GUW #06548.

6: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 5 and 22 November 1872, GUW #06553.

7: GUW #02565.

8: Copy, GUW #13132.

9: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 175-77.

10: Letters to Ford Madox Brown, [autumn] and 31 May 1874, quoted by Doughty, Oswald and John Robert Wahl (eds.), Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 4 vols, Oxford, 1965-1967, vol. 3, pp. 1287, 1307; Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, 48 Pall Mall, London, 1874 (cat. no. 1).

11: 25 July [1877], GUW #02596.

12: 27 July 1877, GUW #02598.

13: GUW #03432.

14: Copy, GUW #13132.

15: Way 1912 [more], p. 29.

16: 2 February [1878], draft, GUW #06073; as sent, GUW #09577.

17: Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, 48 Pall Mall, London, 1874 (cat. no. 1).

18: 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. 100).

19: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 97).

20: Ford, Colin, 'A Pre-Raphaelite partnership: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Robert Parsons', The Burlington Magazine, vol. 156, May 2004, pp. 308-18, online.

21: Letters to Ford Madox Brown, [autumn] and 31 May 1874, quoted by Doughty, Oswald and John Robert Wahl (eds), Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 4 vols, Oxford, 1965-67, vol. 3, pp. 1287, 1307. Portrait drawing, private collection, UK; see Merrill 1998 [more], p. 125. An 1879 crayon portrait by Rossetti is in Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, online in http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s346.rap.html Surtees, Virginia,The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). A Catalogue Raisonné, Oxford, 1971, vol. 1, p. 171 (cat. no. 346).

22: For a full analysis of this dispute, see Merrill 1998 [more].

23: Curry 2004 [more], p. 46.

24: Marchant, William, Walter and H. Greaves (Pupils of Whistler), Goupil Gallery, London, 1922, pp. 19-20.

25: Margaret F. MacDonald, Grischka Petri, Meg Hausberg, and Joanna Meacock, James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné, University of Glasgow, 2012, website at http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk (G.106).

26: Merrill 1998 [more], p. 128.

27: Curry 1984 [more], plate 15; Merrill 1998 [more], pp. 127-28, Portrait of Philip IV King of Spain by Velázquez, Glasgow University Library, repr. p. 129.

28: Portrait of Rey Felipe IV (Philip IV King of Spain) by Velázquez, albumen print, Glasgow University Library Whistler PH3/4 and 6; the first of these was published by A. Giraudon, 15 rue Bonaparte, Paris, which suggests it dates from after 1877. University Collections website at http://collections.gla.ac.uk/#/details/ecatalogue/337943.

29: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 175-77.

30: Marchant, William, Walter and H. Greaves (Pupils of Whistler), Goupil Gallery, London, 1922, pp. 19-20.

31: Quoted in Marchant 1922, ibid.

32: Dr Sarah L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017; see also Parkerson 2007 [more].

33: Ibid.

34: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 7 September 1870, GUW #06545.

35: 2 February [1878], draft, GUW #06073; as sent, GUW #09577.

36: Blanche 1905 [more], at p. 358. He may have seen Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland y107, Portrait of Miss Leyland (1) y109, and/or Portrait of Miss Leyland (2) y110.

37: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 5 and 22 November 1872, GUW #06553.

38: Letters to Ford Madox Brown, n.d. (autumn), and 31 May 1874; quoted by Doughty and Wahl, op. cit. See Spencer 1987 [more].

39: 'Exhibition of Mr. Whistler's Pictures', Pall Mall Gazette, London, 13 June 1874, p. 11.

40: 10 June 1874, GUW #11384. 'Mr Whistler's Pictures', The Hour, 11 June 1874, p. 7; reprinted in Whistler 1890 [more], pp. 47-48, under the heading ' "Confidences" with an Editor.' This transcription is taken from the latter; there were minor variations in punctuation in the original, 'occasionally' read 'necessarily', and the letter was signed 'J. A. McN. WHISTLER / 48 Pall Mall, June 10'. See Getscher 1986 [more], p. 27 (B. 4), p. 275 (L.1a). A copy of the review in The Hour was kept by Whistler, GUL Whistler pc1, p. 71.