Japanese Woman Painting a Fan (recto)

Japanese Woman Painting a Fan (recto)

c. 1872

Part of a set. See all set records

James McNeill Whistler

(American, 1834-1903)

Black chalk and pastel

Support: Brown paper

Sheet: 27.9 x 17.6 cm (11 x 6 15/16 in.); Secondary Support: 38.5 x 28.9 cm (15 3/16 x 11 3/8 in.)

Gift of Mrs. Henry A. Everett for the Dorothy Burnham Everett Memorial Collection 1933.222.a

Description

In 1872 Whistler was commissioned to contribute two designs to complete the decorative scheme of 35 monumental portrait mosaics installed in the south court of the South Kensington Museum in London (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). A celebration of the arts, the mosaics represented male artists throughout history; Whistler’s two designs attempted to correct the gender imbalance. His subjects were a woman at a spindle and a Japanese woman painting a fan. Here, a brush is poised in the figure’s right hand—notice the sharp diagonal line above the orange butterfly—as she pauses to contemplate the fan she is painting. The commission went unfulfilled, and all that survives is this pastel study.

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