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WHISTLER ONCE MORE.
A Famous Painting of His, and
B 'Mini's Portrait.
The present season will have a place all its
rwn in the recollections of those who arc inter
ested in Whistler. It will give us, before very
long, the Important exhibition of his works
which has for some time been in preparation at
the Metropolitan Museum, and, meanwhile, one
notable incident after another has come up to
provoke discussion Of his art. His portrait of
his brother, Dr. Whistler, has been shown at
the Oehme Gallery; the painting that he made
of Irving as "Philip* 1 has lately been exhibited
at the Blakeslee Gallery, and, through Mr. Mac
beth, the Worcester Art Museum has acquired
•The Fur Jacket." Now. at the Kraushaar Gal
lery, there may be seen "The Coast of Brit
tany," a picture dating from 1861, which is one
of the most beautiful things he ever produced.
Looking at this canvas one recalls the stage
in Whistler's career at which he was feeling his
way toward the mode of expression best suited
to his genius, making experiments and at the
.same time exercising a remarkable power. When
he went to Paris, in the 50's, he entered the
studio of G ley re, but even while under the aca
demic influence Of that painter he made friends
with Courbet and profited by his example. The
extent of his indebtedness to the French realist
is not easily computed. The points of contact
between specific works produced by the two at
this period are not by any means to be taken as
indicating an imitative bent on Whistler's part.
What seems most probable is that he received a
broad and wholesome stimulus from Courbet,
presently developing a certain simple force
in his work the more naturally and happily just
because he had been in the company of a vigor
ous and honest painter. The subtle delicacy and
the decorative grace which were ultimately to
distinguish him were coming to the surface.
That much we may see from the famous "Piano
Picture," which he painted in 1858 or 1859, and
from "The Music Room," which dates from 1860.
But at this time the characteristic Whistlerian
"Harmonies** had not got themselves conclusive
ly invented. He had begun to devise "arrange
ments" of color, but. confronting a scene out of
doors, he was moved to paint it with something
of the robust simplicity with which Courbet had
made him familiar. Thus he painted the beauti
ful "Thames in Ice," and, returning to France
in IS6I, "The Coast of Brittany" and "The Blue
Wave." Place either of these pictures beside
cue of his later "Nocturnes" and it is plain that
both were done out of the same genius, but the
differences to be noted are striking.
In "The Coast of Brittany" you have the clear
statement of ponderable things. The painting
of the almost unbroken stretch of sand in the
foreground is by itself a fine bit of realism.
Then, in the rocks beyond, Whistler is equally
careful to give the fact its full value, to draw it
with almost painful care, and in the figure of
the peasant girl introduced into the composition
he shows the same solicitude for accurate repre
sentation. So, too, he paints the shining blue
.sea with bold fidelity to nature. In a word, he
gives you here the portrait of a place. That, as
everybody knows, was hardly what he sought to
di when he reached his artistic prime. He
transmuted nature then into a magical pattern
of color. But a great painter cannot keep his
essential spirit out of his work, he cannot sup
press his instinct for style. Whistler's original
ity is writ large over this painting. It comes out
in the beauty of tone and texture, it comes out
above all in that indefinable quality of touch
which turns clay into gold. It is doubtful if
be could have painted "The Coast of Brittany"
without the inspiration that he absorbed, half
unconsciously, through his relations with Cour
bet. It is equally doubtful if Courbet could have
painted "The Coast of Brittany," though, to save
himself from the stake. The exquisite fineness
of the color in this painting, the air of distinc
tion it possesses, were Whistler's own. Especially
does he make you feel his sense of beauty. Cour
bet might have treated the theme with equal
truth and even, it may be admitted, with more of
brusque authority. He would not have left it,
as Whistler left it, an example of sheer charm!
The Pennells record in their biography of him
that he himself once called it "a beautiful thing."
He could not have used a justcr phrase.
In the life of Whistler cited above there is a
reference to the portrait of him painted by
Boldini in 1597, and he is quoted as bestowing
these words upon it: "They say that looks like
1110, but I hope I don't look like that!" The
truth is that it is a most veracious portrait, and
whether or not it shows him, as the Pennells
Bay, "in his very worst mood," it is a .souvenir
of his closing years which could not well be
spared. Also it is a brilliant example of Bol
dini's extraordinary technical adroitness. For
these reasons every one will rejoice that the
painting has lately been purchased from M. Paul
Hellen by Mr. A. Augustus Healy, the president
of the Brooklyn Institute Museum, and by him
presented to that institution. It is now on ex
hibition there, with the "Portrait of Miss Ley
land," which the Institute possesses. The visitor
who contemplates it will do well to bring with
him a bettor knowledge of Whistler's character
than is afforded by the anecdotes which have
chiefly illustrated his personality for the casual
reader of the present generation. He had his
lovable traits. To browse amongst the reminis
cences of those who were his comrades in Paris
long ago is quickly to see that whilst the irre
NEW-YORK DAILY TRIBUNE, SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 1910.
pressible "Jimmie" was, even in his young man
hood, a pugnacious wit, there was something
wonderfully "taking" about him, and he hal
down to the day of his death a kind of gentle
charm stowed away in his curious nature. Wh* a
he chose to exert it no one could leave a friend
lier impression. The present writer had the op
portunity to observe him in both fantastic and
simple moods. The first wr re not more genuine
than the see >nd. Falling into a quiet kindly
strain you felt in him all that was finest and
most serious in his work, all that was generous
rig by Whistler.)
(From the paint
in the man; you recognized the nature that
made him, for example, a lover of children.
This, of cours* . is not th<- aspect of Whistler
that Boldini caught either in the brilliant dry
point that he made of him, dozinpr. or in ta4
full-length portrait. The latter shows us the
Whistler of "The Gentle Art of Making Ene
mies," the hero of a thousand battles, the coiner
of always biting and sometimes positively erne,
epigrams. It was natural, and desirable. Um<
Boldini should have commemorated Whistle;
the fighter rather than Whistler the dreamer
(From the portrait by Boldini.)
. No one else could have done the tlT^
. wen. The Italian painter wfci* 2§r t
j modern and nervous brush. His sh*l**C
| stroke was precisely what was Ma!.*N
painting of the mask that Vhfa:!, r i*i
| the world at large. He used it in »he **
of this canvas with amazing accuracy**^
The result is a INMi which,; M far „
111 masterly, and will always he prfcedVj ? *
who would have every phase of the ,__*%
of a man of genius turned to the light.** 99 * 1
The prophecies of the almanac are *.
I rule. of interest to art collectors, but Tv *
don Morning Post" reports that "014
has made a very alarming prognostic^
next July. "About th. end of th* n^T
seems, "London will be startled by th e "*'
I the daring robbery of a priceless pict^
thief will escape, and it will be many a*£ '
before the masterpiece la brought to ]u£.
Is cold comfort to learn, on th- same astv
that the. weather at that time will -JT
and warm." Apropos of art and erfeT
"Morning Post" adds this pretty story- '
A lady returning from the Continent «>
in h*-r holdall t. s»m.il> tempera t-tr.v' fi f t* **i
of r;iuliano -]*• Medici at Iferirami. asc-iV^-
Amieo di San.lr.. 1.. Mr BerfriM.i she k£? ••
this name on the buck of tho picture, tfjLjjJ
Tlemish, Italian anj
fifth Jfrenue and TortktD sires
The Clark Galler
566 Fifth Aye.
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