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without frame: Variations in Flesh Colour and Green - The Balcony

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green - The Balcony

Oil painting
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (United States, 1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
1864-1870; additions 1870-1879
Oil on wood panel
94.2 x 82.0 cm
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
English models dressed in kimonos pose before the view outside Whistler’s studio in Lindsey Row, Chelsea. The bright, flatly painted foreground and East Asian props suggest a world far from industrial London, yet the standing figure looks out the view of the Battersea shore that Whistler himself saw every day. Most painters would have overlooked the factories and their detritus, but Whistler chose to transform the modern cityscape through the visual language of art. The smokestacks are veiled in atmospheric mist, and the adjacent slag heap (a monument of industrial waste) evokes images of Mount Fuji by Japanese artists Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. Butterflies, a symbol of metamorphosis, link the foreground fantasy to the real world beyond the balcony. Beginning with this painting, Whistler signed his work with a butterfly instead of his name, thereby linking himself and London to idealized visions of Japan.

G.G. Cavafy, purchased from the artist, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) [1]

To 1892
H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, NY, to 1892 [2]

From 1892 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1892 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remarks 3 and 4, S. Hobbs, 1977, in the object record.

[2] See Original Whistler List, Etchings, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owners
G. G. Cavafy, H. Wunderlich & Co.
On View Location
Freer: South Corridor
balcony, kimono, lute, model, ukiyo-e, United States
Collection(s) Area
American Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Art Project, Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

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