Variations in Flesh Colour and Green – The Balcony

Four women on a balcony overlooking the river.
Signature at lower left.
Frame.

Maker(s)
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)
Historical period(s)
1864-1870; additions 1870-1879
Medium
Oil on wood panel
Dimensions
H x W (painting): 61.4 × 48.5 cm (24 3/16 × 19 1/8 in)
Geography
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
F1892.23a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Oil painting

Keywords
balcony, kimono, lute, model, ukiyo-e, United States
Provenance

G.G. Cavafy, purchased from the artist, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) [1]

To 1892
H. Wunderlich & Co., New York to 1892 [2]

From 1892 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1892 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]

Notes:

[1] See Curatorial Remarks 3 and 4, S. Hobbs, 1977, in the object record.

[2] See Original Whistler List, Etchings, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

G. G. Cavafy
Charles Lang Freer 1854 - 1919
H. Wunderlich & Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1874 - 1912

Description

Four women on a balcony overlooking the river.
Signature at lower left.
Frame.

Label

A pivotal work in Whistler's oeuvre, this painting stands between his fanciful costume works such as Caprice in Purple and Gold and the more fully realized synthesis of Japanese art evident in the Nocturnes of the 1870s. English models dressed in kimonos pose on a balcony overlooking the river Thames and the industrial neighbourhood of Battersea on the opposite shore. The factory smokestacks are veiled in atmospheric mist, and the adjacent slag heap (a monument of industrial waste) evokes images of Mount Fuji by Japanese artists Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. Butterflies, a symbol of metamorphosis, link the foreground fantasy to the real world beyond the balcony. Beginning with this painting, Whistler signed his work with a butterfly instead of his name, thereby linking himself and Victorian London to imaginative visions of Japan.

Published References
  • Helen Nebeker Tomlinson. West Meets East: Charles L. Freer Trailblazing Asian Art Collector. Herndon, VA. Insert p. 7.
  • Anton Sailer. James McNeill Whistler in der Freer Gallery of Art zu Washington. .
  • Léonce Bénédite. L'œuvre de James MacNeill Whistler: quarante reproductions de chefs-d'œuvre du maître, réunis à l'occasion de l'exposition commémorative organisée à Paris, au palais de l'École nationale des beaux-arts. Exh. cat. Paris. pl. 12.
  • Geneva Frances Morgan Tilleux. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, 1857-1873. Ann Arbor. fig. 29.
  • Susan Hobbs. Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. vol. 120, no. 5 New York, November 1981. pl. III.
  • Hilary Taylor. James McNeill Whistler. New York. pl. 34.
  • Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. Glasgow University's pictures: a selection of paintings, drawings, prints, and other works from the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow. Exh. cat. London. .
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  • James McNeill Whistler. Nocturnes, Marines, & Chevalet Pieces: Small Collection Kindly Lent by Their Owners. London, 1892. pl. 7.
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Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum