This delicate study of a reclining nude dates to the last decade of Whistler’s career. Frequently preoccupied with the female form, Whistler created numerous life studies of women in a variety of media, including pastel, oil, and lithograph. Such works captured the body in diverse positions, both in movement and at rest. According to MacDonald, Whistler drew this particular work on a sheet he had previously used for a sketch of a seated woman, the traces of which are barely visible underneath the reclining nude.
In this drawing, Whistler cursorily references the couch drapery upon which the model languidly reclines, leaving much of the paper untouched. Sketching the contours of her body in black chalk, Whistler uses minimal touches of pastel in cream, pale pink, and green tones to suggest the softness of skin and the texture of the fabric underneath her body. The artist’s restrained use of color and line make the subtleties of the drawing all the more apparent. Whistler’s butterfly monogram, with turquoise wings, stands out in the upper right.
Offered on behalf of the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.
The artist; bequeathed by the artist to his sister-in-law
Miss R. Birnie Philip (1873-1958, London and Paris); 1 June 1943 to
P. & D. Colnaghi & Company, Ltd., London; to
Mr. Villiers David, London; to
Sotheby’s London (15 June 1960, lot 55, as “Reclining Female Nude”); to
P. & D. Colnaghi & Company, Ltd., London; 6 June 1961; to
Laing Galleries, Toronto; to
P. Brissenden, Vancouver; 1970 to
Jerrold Morris Gallery, Toronto; by January 1982 to
Albert Starkman, Toronto; to
Christie’s New York (2 December 1988, lot 131, as “Nude Reclining”); to
David Tunick, Inc., New York; March 1989; to
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago
A Selection of Drawings from the Morris Gallery, Morris Gallery, Toronto, 1976; American Treasures: Chase, Whistler and the Prendergasts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 26 April 1996 – 5 January 1997; Songs on Stone: James McNeill Whistler and the Art of Lithography, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June – 30 August 1998; Figures and Forms: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 9 May – 9 July 2000; Modern Harmonies: Whistler Reflects on his Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 31 May –31 August 2003; Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 15 April –17 July 2005; Whistler and Roussel: Linked Visions, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 20 June – 27 September 2015
ARTNews, vol. 69, October 1970, p. 67; Robert Getscher, James Abbott McNeill Whistler: Pastels, G. Braziller, New York, 1991, p. 152–3, ill. no. 57; Martha Tedeschi and Britt Salvesen, “Songs on Stone: James McNeill Whistler and the Art of Lithography,” Museum Studies, vol. 24, no. 1, 1998, p. 56, cat. 109, p. 75, fig. 64, p. 58; Meg Hausberg and Victoria Sancho Lobis, Whistler and Roussel: Linked Visions, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2015, cat. no. 7.8