Design for the Coloring of a Room

A schematic design for the decoration of a room, with the floor, skirting board, wall, and ceiling depicted as planar bands of color; signed with the butterfly at right, above the skirting board.

Maker(s)
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1883-1886
Medium
Watercolor on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 25.2 x 17.8 cm (9 15/16 x 7 in)
Geography
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1901.168
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Drawing
Type

Drawing

Keywords
United States
Provenance

To 1901
Frederick Keppel and Co., London, England, and New York to 1901 [1]

From 1901 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Frederick Keppel and Co., New York, in 1901 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]

Notes:

[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 32, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] 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)

Frederick Keppel and Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919

Description

A schematic design for the decoration of a room, with the floor, skirting board, wall, and ceiling depicted as planar bands of color; signed with the butterfly at right, above the skirting board.

Inscription(s)

In Whistler's handwriting on their respective parts of the sketch: "Ceiling" - "Cornice" - "Wall Venetian Red - White - Yellow ochre" - "Skirting board - Venetian Red - White - Raw Sienna." "Waxed Floor."

In Mr. Keppel's handwriting on back: "Design for the coloring of a room. A Symphony in red, white and yellow!"

Label

Of all Whistler's interiors, only the elaborate Peacock Room survives. But, most of his rooms were much simpler than The Peacock Room; we know them through sketches like this one. Whistler prepared the walls of his rooms as he would a canvas, layering several colors on top of one another to give the surface life and interest. He usually relied on distemper, a water-based paint, but avoided opaque commercial products, mixing evanescent colors of his own.

Published References
  • Margaret F. MacDonald. James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours : A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, 1995. .
  • Kenneth Myers. Mr. Whistler's Gallery: Pictures at an 1884 Exhibition. Washington. p. 11, fig. 7.
  • Burns A. Stubbs, Freer Gallery of Art. Paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and copper plates by and attributed to American and European artists, together with a list of original Whistleriana in the Freer Gallery of Art. Occasional Papers Series, vol. 1 Washington. p. 19.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 67, 177, pl. 92.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces. Richmond and New York, 2004. p. 124, fig. 4.13.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Whistler Watercolors
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