The present work is a preliminary oil sketch for a portrait of Miss Jane Aitken, which was first exhibited at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in February 1894. The convex mirror included in the sketch was painted out in the finished portrait, and a side table added. However, a reporter’s remark that the finished portrait was 'a bold departure from conventional portraiture' (Falkirk Herald and Linlithgow Journal), can equally be applied to the study. Walton had adopted 'slightly varying shades' of monochrome to create a subtle overall effect, harmonizing the figure with its background. Miss Aitken's everyday clothes - her tight-fitting jacket and full skirt - are crisply delineated and as she fingers her gloves she is either about to leave or has just come in from the street.
In the present work, Whistler, and to a lesser extent, Orchardson, were Walton's mentors. For the portrait, specifically the full-length portrait, the American expatriate had developed formal and aesthetic strictures that placed emphasis on shape, colour and tonal harmony which in some instances discreetly uncovered the extrovert aspects of contemporary chic. When the finished portrait was shown at the Salon in Paris, The Glasgow Herald summed up Walton's 'grace of tone and grace of subject' in this, his principal exhibit. Later reviewers might consider that tailoring had taken the place of character, as the influential George Moore began to rail against the parade of 'white satin duchesses', purveyed by Sargent and J.J. Shannon. Nevertheless while James L. Caw might bemoan the sacrifice of character in Walton's later work, he recalled 'with special pleasure the strikingly simple full-length portrait of Miss Aitken'.
We are grateful to Fiona MacSporran for her assistance in cataloguing this lot, and to Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in preparing this catalogue note.