Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Green and Violet depicts Ellen Cobden, wife of Whistler’s onetime pupil Walter Sickert. Using wide and expressive brushstrokes, Whistler painted his sitter in a black and white dress, the texture and color of which contrast with the softened earth tones of her face and hair. Whistler’s wife described the painting as “very pretty . . . It is exactly like her, a funny little fat lady — a very graceful one rather Dutch in character.”

Whistler titled many of his portraits with the names of colors, emphasizing their dual nature as both formal studies and likenesses of the sitters. In Green and Violet, the sitter is almost secondary to the overall composition, her mass a counterbalance to the flattened sofa.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American (Lowell, MA 1834 - 1903 London, England)
Green and Violet: Mrs. Walter Sickert
Other Titles
Former Title: Portrait of Mrs. Walter Sickert
Former Title: Portrait de Mme S., vert et violet
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2710, North Arcade
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
86.4 x 62.2 cm (34 x 24 1/2 in.)
framed: 108 x 84.5 x 8.9 cm (42 1/2 x 33 1/4 x 3 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: c.l.: Butterfly monogram
  • label: on old backing board, now removed, rectangle: [printed:] EXPOSTION DES ŒUVRES DE /JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER. / Paris, Mai, 1905. / Descrption [handwritten, black ink:] Portrait de / Mrs Cobden Sickert / Vert & violet / [printed:] Prêté par [handwritten, black ink:] Mr Cobden Sickert / 5 Raymond Cdgs [?] Srays Tom [?] / Londres.
  • inscription: old backing board, now removed, blue pencil: 4367A
  • label: on old backing board, now removed, square with serrated edges: [printed:] U. S. CUSTOMS / Panama-Pacific International Exposition / EXHIBIT / Serial No. [handwritten, brown ink:] 1352 / [printed:] Case No. [handwritten, brown ink:] P2.5. / [printed:] Lot No. [handwritten, brown ink:] 3.
  • label: on old backing board, now removed, rectangle: [printed:] CARNEGIE INSTITUTE / DEPARTMENT OF FINE ARTS / PITTSBURG, PA. / [handwritten, graphite:] Reg 522 / [handwritten, blue pencil:] 128C
Ellen Cobden Sickert, from the artist, 1886. [Howard Young Galleries, New York, by 1919]. Harold Somers, Brooklyn, by 1924. [Knoedler Galleries, New York]. [Milch Galleries, New York, by 1931]. [John Levy Galleries, by 1935, through 1940], sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, March 10, 1941 [through Martin Birnbaum], bequest; to Fogg Art Musuem, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Salon, exh. cat., Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France, 1894), no. 85

Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels, & Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., Copley Society (Boston, MA, 1904), no. 35

L'oeuvre de James MacNeill Whistler, exh. cat., Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France, 1905), no. 26

Elisabeth Luther Cary, The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study with a Tentative List of the Artist's Work, Moffat, Yard and Company (New York, 1907), no. 35

Bernhard Sickert, Whistler, Duckworth & Co. (London, England, 1908), no. 110

Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, J. B. Lippincott/W. Heinemann (Philadelphia, PA and London, England, 1911), pp. 322, 327

[Reproduction only], Art and Progress, (August 1915)., reproduced on frontispiece

International Exhibition of Fine Arts, exh. cat., Panama-Pacific Exposition (San Francisco, CA, 1915), no. 275

Theodore Duret, Whistler, J. B. Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA, 1917), p. 78, reproduced p. 106

Alfred Thornton, "Walter Richard Sickert", Artwrok: A Quarterly, Artwork Publishing Co. (London, England, Spring 1930), vol. VI, no. 21, pp. 1-18, p. 1

Alfred M. Frankfurter, "Thirty-Five Portraits from American Collections", Art News Annual (May 16, 1931), pp. 3-4, reproduced p. 69

The Forty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Water Colors, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, exh. cat., State Fair of Texas Art Gallery (Dallas, TX, 1934), ill. p. 7

[Unidentified article], Art Digest (October 1, 1937), repr. p. 7

Seven Centuries of Painting, exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco, CA, 1939), no. L-165, reproduced

"Names Withheld", Art News (February 1950), p. 17

Andrew Dempsey, "Whistler and Sickert: A Friendship and its End", Apollo (January 1966), pp. 30-37

Denys Sutton, James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels and Watercolors, Phaidon Press (London, England, 1966), repr. plate 97

Stuart Preston, Whistler, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1971)

Stanley Weintraub, Whistler: A Biography, Weybright and Talley (New York, NY, 1974), p. 279

Andrew McLaren Young and Margaret F. MacDonald, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1980), vol. I: no. 338, p. 161; vol. II, reproduced in b/w, plate 230

Kenneth Baker, "What Matters Most in a Painting", The Christian Science Monitor (September 9, 1983), ill. p. 24

Robin Spencer, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc. (New York, NY, 1989), reproduced in color, plate 88, p. 283

Wendy Baron and Richard Shone, Sickert: Paintings, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven and London, 1992), p. 62, fig. 73

Linda Merrill, After Whistler: The Artist and His Influence on American Painting, exh. cat., SDZ (Belgium, 2003), p. 93, fig. 82 (as part of installation)

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 430-31, cat. no. 458, reproduced in color, p. 431

Exhibition History

Unidentified Exhibition, Salon de Societe Nationale, 1894, Salon de Societe Nationale, Paris, 01/01/1894 - 12/31/1894

Unidentified Exhibition, New Gallery, 1894, New Gallery, London, 01/01/1894 - 12/31/1894

Unidentified Exhibition, Glasgow Fine Art Institute, 1895, Glasgow Fine Art Institute, Glasgow, 01/01/1895 - 12/31/1895

Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels, & Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society of Boston, 02/23/1904 - 03/28/1904

L'Oeuvre de James McNeill Whistler, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 05/01/1905 - 06/30/1905

International Exhibition of Fine Arts, Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 01/01/1915 - 12/31/1915

Unidentified Exhibition, Texas State Fair, 1934, Texas State Fair, Dallas, 10/01/1934 - 10/31/1934

Unidentified Exhibition, Montana Art Museum, 1937, The Art Museum of Missoula Montana, Missoula, 01/01/1937 - 12/31/1937

Seven Centuries of Painting, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 12/01/1939 - 12/31/1939

Unidentified Exhibition, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1940, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 05/01/1940 - 05/31/1940

The American Spirit in Portraiture, 1675 - 1900, Fogg Art Museum, 01/19/1951 - 02/24/1951

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2710 North Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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