Mother and Child—The Pearl

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Chalk and pastel on grey paper
H x W: 18.4 x 27.7 cm (7 1/4 x 10 7/8 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


child, United States, woman

To 1904
William Marchant & Co., London, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from William Marchant & Co. in 1904 [2]

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


[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 25, 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)

William Marchant & Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Whistler’s series of women and children are as complicated and self-referential as Degas’s pastel drawings of ballet dancers, with which they are contemporary. In each case, the works were done in the studio, where the artist could control and manipulate his imagery at will. Like Degas, Whistler was completely devoted to the reuse of standard poses explored in seemingly endless variations. Mother and Child-The Pearl is a case in point. An infrared photo reveals an earlier black chalk drawing of a standing figure with a pot of flowers, probably related to the Six Projects, a series of oil sketches from ca. 1868. The artist’s first attempt at a new drawing was obliterated by the drawing as we see it now.

Published References
  • Douglas E. Schoenherr. British Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa. fig. 115.
  • Margaret F. MacDonald. James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours : A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, 1995. .
  • Albert Gallatin. Whistler: notes and footnotes and other memoranda. New York. p. 35.
  • Albert Gallatin. Whistler's art dicta and other essays. Boston. p. 44.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 49, 247, 273, pl. 273.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., First edition. New York, 1907. cat. 123, p. 177.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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