The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 533
Portrait of Miss Marian Draughn

Portrait of Miss Marian Draughn

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1899
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: unknown
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: unknown

Date

Portrait of Miss Marian Draughn was being painted in 1899 and may have been continued in subsequent years. 1

According to the Pennells, ‘Miss Marian Draughn, a very beautiful American girl, began to sit to Whistler before he had finished his self-portrait.' 2 The self-portrait could have been either Brown and Gold y440 or Gold and Brown y462. A letter in reply to one from the sitter confirms that Whistler was working on his own portrait at the same time, late in 1899:

The White Coon's letter is charming!! and I am so relieved! -

I feared my Florida Gurl [sic] had been destroyed! by my own reckless self! - Come to the Studio on Sunday -

We will invent more wonderful things!

Also I am rushing through the portrait - which is a marvel too - as you will see.' 3

On 18 November 1899 Whistler asked the sitter to come to his studio at 86 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, Paris, saying 'we will try and see what we may work out together.' 4 On 27 November he said he expected her the following Wednesday and had 'made it all right with that other man' (possibly she was supposed to model for another artist). 5

In December 1899 Whistler considered her portrait nearly completed and ready for exhibition at the Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galeries George Petit, Paris, 1899. Hoping to put the finishing touches to the picture, he pressed Miss Draughn to postpone an appointment with another artist:

'Now, you know, there come about certain master events before which all other matters at once are reduced to absolute unimportance!

Well then, Miss Marion - this is what immediately occurs in your own beautiful career!

Tomorrow I want you! That's all - and for once all other engagements must yield to this overwhelming truth! ...

The responsibility is mine - and mine will be the thinking - Mine also the task of straightening things out for you -

See now! the gods have sent you! - a Florida flower from over the seas - to me! Their painter - ...

Now then be at the Studio tomorrow by nine or as soon after as possible - if you want to have a good time tomorrow evening at the exhibition! I have sent all the others - and an empty frame in the centre! dat's for dat gurl!! -

She's looking wonderful - but just waiting for you!

We have swindled them out of another day - or at any rate another morning! but she wants it! I have done wonders to the picture today - but dat gurl is a calling out for mo' gold and rose leaves - and don't you disappoint her!' 6

Writing to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) on 5 December 1899, Whistler sketched his panel of five pictures, including, in the centre, a full length portrait of a woman (almost certainly the portrait of Miss Draughn), which, he said, had arrived at the very last minute: 'The President of the Republic went at two o'clock with his staff to the Gallery ... I sent my profound regrets, and my centre picture - (beautiful - and you know what I must think when I say such a thing.) just in time for his arrival.' 7

Miss Draughn remained in contact with Whistler, for instance, when he was in Paris and she was in London in October 1901. 8 It is possible that she continued to pose for Whistler for this or another portrait. The Pennells imply that she was sitting to Whistler in London between 1901 and 1902. 9

Images

Portrait of Miss Marian Draughn, Whereabouts unknown
Portrait of Miss Marian Draughn, Whereabouts unknown

Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402

La Sylphide, The Hunterian
La Sylphide, The Hunterian

Miss Marian Draughn, photo montage, ca 1905
Miss Marian Draughn, photo montage, ca 1905

Miss Marian Draughn in 'Water Babies' at the Garrick, repr. in The Tatler, 28 January 1903
Miss Marian Draughn in 'Water Babies' at the Garrick, repr. in The Tatler, 28 January 1903

Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903
Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903

Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903
Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903

Subject

Titles

One title is known:

Description

Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402

Judging from Whistler's tiny sketch, Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit m1600, reproduced above, it was a full-length portrait of a woman surrounded by fluttering draperies, and facing the viewer, with a curtain behind her.

La Sylphide, The Hunterian
La Sylphide, The Hunterian

It is just possible that it was a nude study such as La Sylphide y494. However, it far more likely that it showed Miss Draughn in fashionable or theatrical dress.

Sitter

Miss Marian Draughn, photo montage, ca 1905
Miss Marian Draughn, photo montage, ca 1905

Miss Marian Draughn in 'Water Babies' at the Garrick, The Tatler, 28 January 1903
Miss Marian Draughn in 'Water Babies' at the Garrick, The Tatler, 28 January 1903

Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903
Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, 1903

'Marion' or Marian Draughn (1878-1940) was born Flossie Settle, the daughter of Thomas Settle (1831–1888), judge and politician in North Carolina. She had a successful career as an actress, and a slightly stormy personal life.

The Pennells state that the illustrators Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) and Philip William May (1864-1903) sent her to Whistler – probably in Paris – and Whistler called her his ‘Coon Girl’. 11

Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, ca 1905
Miss Marian Draughn, photograph, ca 1905

She may have been one of the ‘Gibson Girls’: a collection of Gibson’s pen drawings of beautiful young American women was published in London in 1900. She starred in The Education of Mr. Pipp (a play written by Augustus Thomas based on a series of cartoons by Gibson) at the Broadway Theatre in 1905.

Technique

Technique

It was a full-length study of a woman on canvas. It is not known if she was fully clothed or partially nude and surrounded by draperies.

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Unknown.

History

Provenance

Exhibitions

Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402
Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit, GUL MS Whistler P402

Writing to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) on 5 December 1899, Whistler sketched his panel of five pictures, including, in the centre, a full length portrait of a woman, which, he said, had arrived at the very last minute, and which was presumably the portrait of Marion Draughn:

'[I]t appears that Paris has gone simply wild about the "Wistleer" group at the exhibition of which this is the opening night! -

Young Stevens, the son of Alfred Stevens - ... says that there is "un monde fou"!, an excited crowd in front of the Whistler pictures! so great that it is impossible to see them! But that the whole group or "panel" looks superb!! ...

The President of the Republic went at two o'clock with his staff to the Gallery - and very properly every body was there to receive him - Well, I sent my profound regrets, and my centre picture - (beautiful - and you know what I must think when I say such a thing.) just in time for his arrival - -

Already this evening, on my return to the hotel, I find a note, from the Secretary of the Gallery, wishing to know immediately the prices of these wonderful pictures, as it was most important that he should be able to answer the many demands in the course of the afternoon!! - This was followed by an anxious and important visit from the Secretary himself, who couldnt wait! Well, I said, what is the use, my prices are simply enormous!! - Whereupon he was more determined than ever! ...

Stevens said that one of the artists said to him "Pearls! they are pearls in the sty!"!' 12

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 533).

2: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, p. 204.

3: Whistler to Miss Draughn, [1899/1900], GUW #11202. The name 'White Coon', suggests she was dancing or singing with a band performing the newly popular 'cakewalk'.

4: 18 November [1899], GUW #11195.

5: [27 November 1899], GUW #11194.

6: [4/5 December 1899], GUW #11205; letter formerly dated 1901, redated with reference to the letters to Draughn quoted above, and to R. Birnie Philip, [5 December 1899], quoted below.

7: Whistler to R. Birnie Philip, [5 December 1899], GUW #04762; drawing listed as Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit m1600.

8: R. Birnie Philip to Inez Addams, 22 October 1901, GUW #04817.

9: Pennell 1921C [more], p. 244.

10: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 533).

11: Pennell 1921C [more], p. 244.

12: Whistler to R. Birnie Philip, [5 December 1899], GUW #04762; drawing listed as Five paintings at the Galerie Georges Petit m1600. The artist Alfred Émile-Léopold Stevens (1823-1906) was a close friend of Whistler.