James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Miss Agnes Mary Alexander

c.1873

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1924 x 1016 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by W.C. Alexander 1950
Reference
N05964

Display caption

This portrait of Agnes Mary (‘May’) Alexander was commissioned by her father WC Alexander, the appreciative purchaser of Whistler’s very first Nocturne, Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea, hanging nearby. In painting May, Whistler followed a very different path to the one he took when painting her younger sister Cicely, also on display in this room. More simply and starkly conceived, May emerges out of rich shadows, something Whistler copied from the Spanish old master painter Velásquez. The tightly restricted harmony of colours is raised only for the group of yellow flowers.

Gallery label, February 2010

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