James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903) Nelly 29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)

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Lot 31
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
(American, 1834-1903)
Nelly 29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)

£ 15,000 - 20,000
US$ 18,000 - 24,000
Withdrawn
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903)
Nelly
Inscribed 'To Ernest Brown. With compliments. Jan.96./J McNeill Whistler./Monogram: JMW' (lower left)
pencil on paper
29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)

Footnotes

  • 'Nelly' in keeping with Whistler’s other drawings presents the viewer with a unique insight into the artist’s personal relationships and working method. For, in contrast to the paintings, the drawings were intended for personal use rather than sale or promulgation of Whistler's belief in ‘Art for Art's sake’.

    The subject of the drawing is Helen Brown, nicknamed 'Nelly'. She was Ernest Brown's (of Ernest Brown & Phillips of Leicester Galleries) daughter to whom the inscription is addressed. Whistler often visited Ernest Brown's family home in Dulwich Village. He later painted Helen Brown as a teenager. This version is now known as 'Rose and Gold: Pretty Nellie Brown', which was purchased by an American collector. Helen Brown was the great aunt of the present owner and this drawing of her as a child has been passed down through the family.

    The joy of the drawing illustrated here lies in Whistler’s manipulation of dots and lines to maximum expressive effect. Indeed Whistler used small delicate dots to suggest Nelly’s nose and eyes, which act in contrast to the strong lines in the background and compliment the rubbings, which Whistler used to render the folds in the dress. The result is an extremely sensitive drawing, which clearly evokes the character of young Nelly.

    The viewer must also pay attention to the surface onto which Whistler laid his dots and lines. He viewed paper as a vital aesthetic choice in the drawing process; the surface and colour having a profound impact on the overall finish of the work. Whistler believed that modern paper, with its uniform whiteness added nothing to the visual effects of the drawing. Instead, wherever possible Whistler used older Dutch paper. This paper was highly textured and contained a hint of colour, properties which imbued his works with a certain richness.

    Whistler lived most of his life in Paris and London, training in the studio of Charles Gleyre. His early work was influenced by the art of Courbet, and arguably certain realist qualities remained with him throughout his career. However Whistler went on to become a leading member of the Aesthetic Movement and achieved notoriety when he sued John Ruskin for libel over Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1875).

Saleroom notices

  • Please note this Lot is withdrawn.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903) Nelly 29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903) Nelly 29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903) Nelly 29 x 20.5 cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 in)
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