3 More
Property from the Collection of Elene Canrobert Isles de Saint Phalle

Whistler Smoking

Whistler Smoking
signed 'Whistler.' (lower right)
oil on panel laid down on cradled panel
9 ½ x 6 5/8 in. (24.1 x 16.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1856-1860
(possibly) H. Aubrée and Louis Aubrée, Paris (circa 1899).
Private collection, France.
Jacques Seligmann & Co., Paris and New York (acquired from the above, 1912).
Henry Reinhardt, Chicago, Paris and New York (acquired from the above, 1913).
Henry Ruben Ickelheimer, New York (acquired from the above, 1913).
Philip Henry Isles, New York (by descent from the above, circa 1940).
By descent from the above to the late owner, circa 1960.
A.E. Gallatin, The Portraits and Caricatures of James McNeill Whistler: An Iconography, New York, 1913, pp. 2-3 and 17-18 , no. 2 (illustrated).
T. Duret, Histoire de J. McN. Whistler et de son oeuvre, Paris, 1914, p. 1, pl. 1 (illustrated; titled Portrait du Whistler par lui-même).
E. Alder, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Portraitures of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., University of Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery, 1915, p. 13.
F.G., "Reviews" in The Burlington Magazine, 1916, vol. 29, pp. 131-132.
C.R. Grundy, ed., "The Connoisseur Bookshelf," The Connoisseur, 1919, vol., LIII, p. 237.
N.N. "Art: Whistler" in The Nation, 1 February 1919, vol. 108, no. 2796, p. 176.
E.R. Pennell and J. Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, Philadelphia, 1919, vol. 1, p. 52.
E.R. Pennell and J. Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, o.p. 29 (illustrated).
The Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana, Washington, D.C., 1921, p. 27, no. 144.
A.M. Young, M.F. MacDonald, R. Spencer and H. Mills, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven, 1980, no. 9 (illustrated, pl. 2).
E. Denker, In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., Seattle and London, 1995, p. 27, fig. 1:11 (illustrated).
J.F. Heijbroek, M.F. MacDonald, Whistler and Holland, exh. cat., Amsterdam, 1997, fig. 14 (illustrated).
M.F. MacDonald, "Whistler: Painting the Man" in Whistler, Women, & Fashion, exh. cat., The Frick Collection, New York, 2003, pp. 7 and 221, no. 18.
M.F. MacDonald, “James McNeill Whistler: An Artist on Artists” in Visual Culture in Britain, 2015, vol. 16, no. 2, p. 1, no. 8.
M.F. MacDonald and G. Petri, James McNeill Whistler: The Paintings, a Catalogue Raisonné (whistlerpaintings.gla.ac.uk), no. YMSM 009 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

"He was just twenty-one years old, full of life and ‘go,’ always ready for fun, good-natured and good tempered—he wore a peculiar straw hat slightly on the side of his head—it had a low crown and a broad brim.” (Luke Ionides, as quoted in E. Denker, In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., Seattle and London, 1995, p. 27)

In November 1855, a defiantly independent 21-year-old James McNeill Whistler arrived in Paris, after being expelled from West Point Academy, ready to fully embrace la vie de bohème of the moment. During his time in the French capital, Whistler became entrenched in the Parisian avant-garde circles, which also included Impressionist masters such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Fantin-Latour. In this environment, he also actively began cultivating his own image as an artist. His first known self-portrait in oil and the only known example located in private hands, Whistler Smoking is an ebullient image radiating the artist’s embrace of the bohemian Parisian lifestyle of the mid-nineteenth century.

John Walker writes, “The art, thought, and taste of Paris molded Whistler during his student years…[his] four years in Paris left an indelible impression” (James Abbott McNeill Whistler, New York, 1987, p. 22). Indeed, during this time Whistler adopted the persona of the “Bohemian”—a term commonly associated with artists of the era who lived unorthodox lifestyles and wore idiosyncratic clothing. In Whistler Smoking, the artist dons a Bohemian uniform of a wide-brimmed straw hat and dark coat with a loosely tied spotted cravat. Fully engaging the viewer, he confidently holds a cigarette at left as delicately rendered smoke leaves his mouth.

With his pose and demeanor clearly meant to make an impression, Whistler Smoking is one of thirteen self-portraits in oil, eleven of which are located today. In each image, Whistler sought to both shape his public persona and market his work, shape-shifting his own like-ness and dress in each image. Suzanne Singletary writes that Whistler had a “flamboyance associated with his public personality, an image carefully crafted by the artist. By the 1890s, Whistler had become a legendary figure in Europe and America, known almost more for the theatricality of his persona than for his art. His mischievous wit and biting sarcasm—coupled with a formidable talent for self-promotion—fed a public that was hungry for anecdotes about the outrageous lives of artists” (James McNeill Whistler and France: A Dialogue in Paint, Poetry, and Music, London and New York, 2017, p. 1).

Vibrant, enigmatic and compelling, Whistler Smoking is among the artist's finest painted self-portraits. Other notable self-portraits in public collections include the 1872 Arrangement in Gray: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122; Detroit Institute of Arts); Portrait of Whistler with Hat of 1858 (YMSM 023; Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and Gold and Brown of 1896-1898, (YMSM 462; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All