The Model

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 248
Date: 1883/1885
Medium: mezzotint
Size: 253 x 178 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 4
Catalogues: K.346; M.344
Impressions taken from this plate  (4)
The Model probably dates from between 1883 and 1885. This date is consistent with a pencil butterfly signature on the only known impression, which can be dated about 1884 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3460102), and which was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in May 1893.
The fairly high level of finish and 'polish' in the mezzotint is close to that in a pastel, Standing nude [m0955], dated between 1883 and 1886. Comparable seated nudes also appear in two later pastels, The Fortune Teller - a red note [m1083] and Resting [m1085], dated between 1886 and 1890, and a lithograph, The Little Nude Model, Reading [c033], which has been dated 1889/1890 (but may date from earlier). The dating of all these works is open to revision.
Hopkinson discusses a reference to working in mezzotint in a letter from Whistler to George Francis (Frank) Miles, who lived at 1 Tite Street near Whistler in Chelsea: 'I meant to have answered your note thanking you for the pretty flowers - and sending the Mezzo tint scraper - I have really found it! and will send it round when I find it again - ! - ' 1 This letter, the date of which is not absolutely certain (it could date from 1884 or slightly later) comes much closer to the date suggested by the pencil butterfly on the only known impression of The Model. It confirms Whistler's interest in mezzotints in the early to mid-1880s. Thus the technique, combined with documentary evidence, helps to confirm a date of the early to mid-1880s for The Model and other mezzotints.

1: [1884/1886], GUW #08105; Hopkinson 1998.

It is undoubtedly difficult to date, and, Hopkinson suggested that the mezzotint dated from some ten years earlier, when Whistler wrote from Speke Hall, near Liverpool, the house of his patron Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892): 'the Mezzotinted plates have not come down to me yet ... And that reminds me - the little frame and board with wires for squaring has not arrived yet though it may tomorrow.' 2 However, it is unlikely that this referred to nude studies, since it is unlikely that Whistler could have worked from the nude in Leyland's house.

It is more likely that Whistler had plans to make mezzotint reproductions after his oil portraits, such as Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother [y101]. A squared grid - 'the little frame and board with wires' - would have been required to ensure accuracy. In the event Whistler did not make any such copies, but a few years later Richard Josey (1840-1906) made mezzotints, 'UNDER THE IMMEDIATE SUPERVISION OF THE PAINTER', after Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother [y101], Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle [y137] and Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder [y203]. These were published by Graves & Co. in 1879-1880. 3

2: Whistler to W. C. Alexander, 1 February 1875, GUW #07565; Hopkinson 1998, p. 400.

3: Subscription form, 3 July 1878, GUW #13913.

Nude studies, including seated nudes, were drawn by Whistler throughout his career. The Model has been compared to a drawing of the early 1870s, A nude seated in right profile [m0417]. 4 In that drawing, Whistler used broad, rough lines and bold 'scumbling' to suggest masses. Whistler's technique in the 1870s was more linear, with less use of rubbing, than the soft, smoothly rubbed technique seen in The Model, which appears closer to his work in the 1880s and 1890s.

4: Hopkinson 1998, p. 400.