The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 286
The Pier: A Grey Note

The Pier: A Grey Note

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1884
Collection: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Accession Number: 1988.6
Medium: oil
Support: wood
Size: 8.7 x 14.8 cm (3 7/16 x 5 13/16")
Signature: butterfly
Inscription: none

Date

The Pier: A Grey Note may date from early 1884, when Whistler worked in St Ives. 1

The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

It was first exhibited at 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 1).

Images

The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Grey and Silver: Mist - Life Boat, Freer Gallery of Art
Grey and Silver: Mist - Life Boat, Freer Gallery of Art

Subject

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

A pen inscription on the hack of the panel, dating from the first exhibition in 1884, reads 'The Pier, a grey note/ No. 1, catalogue/ "Notes, Harmonies, Nocturnes".' The inscription has faded and the title given to the painting in Boston in 1934 was based on a misreading.

'The Pier: A Grey Note' is the preferred title.

Description

The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

A view from a beach, looking across green seas to a pier at far left. There is someone standing on the beach and a rider on a horse in the surf at right.

Site

The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Grey and Silver: Mist – Life Boat, Freer Gallery of Art
Grey and Silver: Mist – Life Boat, Freer Gallery of Art

The view was identified conclusively by Anna Greutzner Robins: it shows Smeaton's Pier in the coastal town of St Ives, Cornwall, in south-west England: the pier also appears in the distance in Grey and Silver: Mist - Life Boat y287. 6

Technique

Technique

The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Pier: A Grey Note, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

It is thinly painted on an unprimed dark orangey-red panel. The yellowish tone of the wood shines through the muted colours, the grey sky and darker grey beach, and the greenish sea. The long horizontal brushstrokes on the sea, and the shorter, wavy strokes of white paint on the breakers are painted with a round-ended brush, 3mm wide; the details of the figure and the pier were defined with a very fine pointed brush.

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Unknown.

History

Provenance

It was said to have been owned by Ross Winans (1795-1877), whose sister Julia married Whistler's half-brother George William Whistler (1822-1869), but this is not possible since it was not painted until 1884. It could however have been owned by Ross Winans Whistler, the son of G. W. Whistler and Julia de Kay Winans, and inherited by his son, Ross Theodore Whistler. The latter lent it to an exhibition in Boston in 1934. It was inherited by his first wife Mary Vinton Murray (Mrs Mary Murray Whistler) probably before or at the time of his second marriage in 1935, and was sold at auction in 1979.

Exhibitions

The Glasgow Herald, on 10 June 1884, commended it as 'excellent and delicate'.

In 1887 'A Grey Note' was described in the Globe as 'a sea-coast [study] of miniature size'. 7

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 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. 286).

2: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 1).

3: Oils, Water-colors, Drawings and Prints by James McNeill Whistler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1934 (cat. no. 14).

4: Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1886 (cat. no. 235).

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 286).

6: Robins 2007 [more], pp. 13-14.See also Gilbert, Henry, Roy Ray, and Colin Orchard, All About St. Ives: A Guide to the Town, its Galleries and Art History, [St Ives], 2006, p. 9.

7: Globe, 29 November 1887 (press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 9, p. 17).