Overview

When Whistler submitted The White Girl to the Paris Salon in 1863, the tradition–bound jury refused to show the work. Napoleon III invited avant–garde artists who had been denied official space to show their paintings in a "Salon des Refusés," an exhibition that triggered enormous controversy. Whistler's work met with severe public derision, but a number of artists and critics praised his entry. In the Gazette des Beaux–Arts, Paul Manz referred to it as a "symphony in white," noting a musical correlation to Whistler's paintings that the artist himself would address in the early 1870s, when he retitled a number of works "Nocturne," "Arrangement," "Harmony," and "Symphony."

Whistler used variations of white pigment to create interesting spatial and formal relationships. By limiting his palette, minimizing tonal contrast, and sharply skewing the perspective, he flattened forms and emphasized their abstract patterns. This dramatic compositional approach reflects the influence of Japanese prints, which were becoming well known in Paris as international trade increased.

Clearly, Whistler was more interested in creating an abstract design than in capturing an exact likeness of the model, his mistress Joanna Hiffernan. His radical espousal of a purely aesthetic orientation and the creation of "art for art's sake" became a virtual rallying cry of modernism.

Inscription

upper right: Whistler. 1862

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Sold 1866 by the artist to his half-brother, George W. Whistler [d. 1869], London, but retained possession; bequeathed to his wife, Mrs. George W. Whistler [d. 1875]; sent 1875 by the artist to her son, Thomas Delano Whistler, Baltimore, Maryland; sold 28 February 1896 for Thomas D. Whistler by (Boussod Valladon & Cie, New York) to Harris Whittemore [1864-1927], Naugatuck, Connecticut; sold 1897 to his father, John Howard Whittemore [d. 1910], Naugatuck, Connecticut; bequeathed to the J.H. Whittemore Company, Naugatuck, Connecticut, with life interest to John Howard Whittemore's daughter, Miss Gertrude B. Whittemore [d. 1941], Naugatuck, Connecticut;[1] gift 1943 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1862
Morgan's Gallery, London, 1862, no. 42, as The Woman in White, cat. untraced.
1863
Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, gravure, lithographie et architecture, refusés par le Jury de 1863, et exposés, par décision de S. M. l'Empereur, au salon annexe (Salon des Refusés), Palais de Champs Elysées, Paris, 1863, no. 596, as Dame blanche.
1863
Possibly The Artists' and Amateurs' Conversazione, Willis' Rooms, London, 1863, as The Woman in White.
1863
Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Martinet's Gallery, Paris, 1863.
1867
Universal Exhibition, U.S.A. Section, Paris, 1867, two catalogues: no. 68 and no. 75, as The White Girl.
1876
Charity Art Exhibition, Academy of Music, Baltimore, 1876, no. 43, as "A Girl in White".
1881
Loan Collection of Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1881, no. 60, as The White Girl.
1881
The Union League Club, New York, 1881, cat. untraced.
1894
Loan Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1894, no. 252, as The White Girl.
1895
Loan Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1895, no. 253, as The White Girl.
1898
Loan Exhibition of Portraits for the Benefit of the Orthopaedic Hospital, National Academy of Design, New York, 1898-1899, no. 254, as The Woman in White.
1904
Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels, & Drawings, Copley Society of Boston, Copley Hall, Boston, 1904, no. 71, as The White Girl.
1905
Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, London, 1905, no. 37, as The Woman in White, Symphony in White, No. 1.
1905
Oeuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905, no. 4, as Symphony in White No. 1, The White Girl.
1910
Paintings in Oil and Pastel by James A. McNeill Whistler, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1910, no. 3, as Symphony in White I: The White Girl.
1931
Pictures of People, 1870-1930: A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of Hope Farm, M. Knoedler and Co., New York, 1931, no. 4, as The White Girl.
1932
American Painting and Sculpture, 1862-1932, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1932-1933, no. 113, as Woman in White.
1933
Possibly Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists [opening exhibition], Grand Central Galleries, Fifth Avenue Branch, New York, 1933.
1934
A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, 1934, no. 433, repro. 66, as The White Girl.
1934
Oils, Water-colors, Drawings and Prints by James McNeill Whistler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1934, no. 4, as The White Girl.
1936
Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition of the Cleveland Museum of Art: The Official Art Exhibit of the Great Lakes Exposition, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1936, no. 377, repro. LXXV, as The White Girl, Symphony in White, No. 1.
1938
Exhibition of Paintings, The Tuttle House, Naugatuck, Connecticut, 1938, no. 42, frontispiece.
1939
Art in Our Time: an Exhibition to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Museum of Modern Art and the opening of its New Building held at the time of the New York World's Fair, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939, no. 45, as The White Girl.
1940
Golden Gate International Exposition, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, May-September 1940, no. 1221, as The White Girl, repro.
1940
Modern Masters from European and American Collections, Museum of Modern Art, New York, January-March 1940, no. 1, as The White Girl, repro.
1940
Old Masters and Modern American and French paintings from the San Francisco Exposition, and the Los Angeles County Fair, and from individual dealers, The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, October-November 1940, no cat.
1941
Paintings from the Whittemore Collection, Mattatuck Historical Society, Waterbury, Connecticut, 1941, no. 35, as The White Girl.
1949
De Gustibus...An Exhibition of American Paintings illustrating A Century of Taste and Criticism, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1949, no. 15.
1950
Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1950-1951, no. 65, as The White Girl.
1954
Sargent, Whistler and Mary Cassatt, Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1954, no. 94, color repro., as The White Girl: Symphony in White, No. 1.
1957
American Classics of the Nineteenth Century, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1957-1958, no. 51, as The White Girl (travelling exhibition, 5 venues, shown only in Pittsburgh).
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1968
James McNeill Whistler, Art Institute of Chicago; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York, 1968, no. 3.
1971
From Realism to Symbolism: Whistler and His World, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1971, no. 12, as The White Girl (Symphony in White, No. 1) (organized by Columbia University).
1988
Amerikanische Malerei des 18 und 19. Jahrhunderts, Orangerie of the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin; Kunsthaus Zürich, 1988-1989, no. 67 (organized by Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin).
1994
James McNeill Whistler, Tate Gallery, London; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994-1995, no. 14, repro.
1995
Loan to display with permanent collection, Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1995-1996.
1997
Loan to display with permanent collection, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1997-1998.
1997
The Victorians: British Painting in the Reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1997, no. 28, color repro.
1999
America: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1999, no. 125, repro.
2003
After Whistler: The Artist and His Influence on American Painting, High Museum of Art, Atlanta; The Detroit Institute of Arts, 2003-2004, no. 1, repro.
2006
Americans in Paris 1860-1900, The National Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006-2007, no. 19.
2011
The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2011-2012, unnumbered catalogue, pl. 14.

Bibliography

1867
Tuckerman 1867, 486.
1903
Way, T.R., and G.R. Dennis. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation. London, 1903: 26.
1905
Bénédite, Léonce. "Artistes contemporains: Whistler." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 33-34 (1905): 233, 507, 510-511, pl. V.
1905
Isham, Samuel. The History of American Painting. New York, 1905: 333.
1907
Cary, Elizabeth Luther. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study, with a Tentative List of the Artist's Works. New York, 1907: 37-41, repro.
1908
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins and Joseph Pennell. The Life of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols. London, 1908: 1:94-98, 102-103, 140-141, 144, 157.
1910
Paintings in Oil and Pastel by James A. McNeill Whistler. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1910: 3-6.
1917
Duret, Théodore. Whistler. Translated by Frank Rutter. London, 1917: 14-16, 20-22, 45, 148 (original edition, Paris, 1904).
1921
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins. The Whistler Journal. Philadelphia, 1921: 4, 144.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 162, color repro., as The White Girl.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 56, color repro., as The White Girl.
1959
Bouton, Margaret. American Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number One in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 32, color repro., as The White Girl.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 26, as The White Girl.
1963
Sutton, Denys. Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler. London, 1963: 36-38, fig. 6.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 292, repro., as The White Girl.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:494, color repro., as The White Girl.
1966
Sutton, Denys. James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels, Watercolours. London, 1966: 10, 47-48, 187, color pl. 25, pl. 29, detail.
1968
Sweet, Frederick A. James McNeill Whistler. Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago, 1968: 54, color pl. 3.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 122, repro., as The White Girl.
1978
Fleming, Gordon. The Young Whistler. London, 1978: 171-174, 189-191, fig. 23.
1978
Newton, Judith Vale, and Margaret F. MacDonald. "Whistler: Search for a European Reputation." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 41, no. 1 (1978): 150-152, fig. 2.
1978
Taylor, Hilary. James McNeill Whistler. London, 1978: 27-29, color pl. 5.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 259, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 9, 16, no. 42, color repro.
1980
Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, and Robin Spencer, with the assistance of Hamish Miles. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols. New Haven, 1980: 1:17-20, no. 38; 2:pl. 28, 369, 370.
1981
Johnson, Ron. "Whistler's Musical Modes: Symbolist Symphonies." Arts 55, no. 8 (April 1981): 164-168, fig. 1.
1981
Williams 1981, repro. 128, 130.
1984
Curry, David Park. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Exh. cat. Freer Gallery of Art, 1984: 38-43, color repro.
1984
Stein, Donna. Whistler. New York, 1984: 9-10, color pl. 3.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 558, no. 849, color repro.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 142, no. 48, color repro.
1990
Fink, Lois Marie. American Art at the Nineteenth Century Paris Salons. Cambridge, 1990: 230-231, 264, 79-83, 102, color pl. 7.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 379, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 238, repro.
1994
Anderson, Ronald, and Anne Koval. James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth. New York, 1994: 106-109, 133-135, color pl. 4.
1994
Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York, 1994: 343, fig. 23.17.
1994
Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald. James McNeill Whistler. Exh. cat. Tate Gallery, London; Musée D'Orsay, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. London, 1994: no. 14, 76-78, color repro.
1995
Chaleyssin, Patrick. James McNeill Whistler: The Strident Cry of the Butterfly. Bournemouth, England, 1995: 22-26, color repro.
1995
Koval, Anne. Whistler and His Time. London, 1995: 32-36.
1997
Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York, 1997:239, color fig. 145.
1998
Adler, Shane. “Whiteness." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:939.
1998
Merill, Linda. The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography. Washington D.C., Freer Gallery of Art, 1998: 43-50, fig. 1.2, repro.
1998
Spencer, Robin. "Whistler's 'The White Girl': painting, poetry and meaning." The Burlington Magazine 140, no. 1142 (May 1998): 300-311, repro.
1998
Torchia, Robert Wilson, with Deborah Chotner and Ellen G. Miles. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 238-244, color repro.
1999
Funnell, Peter, et al. Millais: Portraits. London, National Portrait Gallery, 1999: 113, 114, 116, repro.
1999
L'Enfant, Julie. William Rossetti's Art Criticism: The Search for Truth in Victorian Art. New York, 1999: 180-181, repro. fig. 4.6.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 336-337, no. 271, color repro.
2006
Brock, Charles. Charles Sheeler: Across Media. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Art Institute of Chicago; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Washington, D.C., 2006: 14, fig. 3.
2006
Whistler and Russia. Exh. cat. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg. Moscow, 2006: repro. 23.
2006
Søndergaard, Sidsel Maria. Women in Impressionism: From Mythical Feminine to Modern Woman. Exh. cat. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Milan, 2006: 118, 124 fig. 100, 132 n. 26.
2007
Goldin, Marco, ed. America! Storie di pittura dal Nuovo Mondo. 2 vols. Treviso, 2007: 1:379, repro.; 2:146.
2008
High Society. American Portraits of the Gilded Age. Exh. cat. Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg. Munich, 2008: 69, 70 fig. 10.

Conservation Notes

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