Symphony in Blue and Pink

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1868
Oil on millboard mounted on wood panel
H x W (painting): 46.7 x 61.8 cm (18 3/8 x 24 5/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

United States, woman

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from the artist in 1903 [1]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 9, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Purchased in July 1903.

[2] 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)

James McNeill Whistler (C.L. Freer source) 1834 - 1903
Charles Lang Freer 1854 - 1919


This oil sketch is part of a group of similar works later collectively titled the Six Projects by Charles Lang Freer. It dates from a period when Whistler undertook a self-imposed process of artistic reeducation. By borrowing freely from Japanese prints, classical Greek sculpture, and French eighteenth-century rococo painting, Whistler hoped to liberate his art from the chains of narrative realism. His use of chromatic and musical titles suggests that the decorative interplay of colors, rather than a particular story or moral, is key to the work’s content. Whistler later explained that they were the result of the “profound analysis on which the Japanese produce their extraordinary colour-harmonies,” woven through a composition, he said, like threads in embroidery.

Published References
  • Susan Hobbs. Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. vol. 120, no. 5 New York, November 1981. pl. 6.
  • Denys Sutton. James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels & Watercolours. London, 1966. pl. 42.
  • Judith Elaine Gorder. James McNeill Whistler: A Study of the Oil Paintings 1855-1869. Ann Arbor. fig. 48.
  • Denys Sutton. Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler. Philadelphia and New York, 1964. fig. 22.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. .
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Whistler: The Artist and the Man. Smithsonian Institution Radio Program, vol. 10, no. 3 New York. p. 13.
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art Department of Art History and Archaeology of Columbia University. From Realism to Symbolism, Whistler and his World. Exh. cat. New York and Philadelphia. p. 14.
  • Deborah Gribbon. Whistler's sketch of an unfinished symphony. Boston. pp. 26-33, fig. 3.
  • Robin Spencer. The Aesthetic Movement: Theory and practice. London. pp. 40-41.
  • Robin Spencer. James McNeill Whistler. British Artists. p. 41.
  • Robin Spencer. Japonisme in Art: An International Symposium., 1st edition. Tokyo, 1980. p. 67.
  • Patricia de Montfort Clare Willsdon. Whistler And Nature. Exh. cat. London, England. p. 69, fig. 42.
  • Linda Merrill. The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography. Washington and New Haven. p. 102, fig. 2.21.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 108, 150, pl. 8.
  • Elizabeth Prettejohn. Art for Art's Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting. p. 114.
  • Laurie Schneider Adams. The Making and Meaning of Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ. p. 124, fig. 6.25.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., First edition. New York, 1907. cat. 41, p. 162.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 134, p. 169.
  • The New Painting of the 1860s. New Haven and London. p. 176, fig. 156.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces. Richmond and New York, 2004. p. 227, fig. 6.8.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum

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