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Maud Franklin

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Maud Franklin

Artist: James A. McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903; active Europe, after 1855)

Date: c. 1878
Medium: Black iron gall ink wash, with black dry media, on machine-made, cream-colored, medium-weight laid paper
Overall: 7 × 3 7/8in. (17.8 × 9.8cm)
Inscribed: Recto (not written by Whistler), lower left (graphite): "J. A. M. W"; Verso, top (graphite): "Drawing by / Whistler"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 69.94
Text Entries

This drawing was owned by Whistler’s friend Thomas R. Way, Who published it in his recollections of the artist.(3) It depicts Maud Franklin, Whistler’s mistress during the 1870s and 1880s.(4) Way said of Maud, “The great number of his pictures for which she posed, and the self—sacrifice she displayed before the most exacting and trying of all painters, deserve at least a word of recognition.”(5) Maud posed for Whistler for her own portraits and stood in for portraits of other women as well. Whistler used the pose Maud assumed in the drawing, with her back to the viewer, in several oil portraits he painted in the 1870s.(6)

Whistler appears to have made the MWPI drawing in three steps. First, with a silvery-gray ink, he drew the vertical lines of Mauds close-fitting, informal morning dress.(7) Then, to reinforce the curves of her silhouette, Whistler surrounded the figure with a rectangle of darker ink. Finally, to the right of Maud’s figure, he rapidly applied strokes of graphite or charcoal.

As with his other full-length portraits and figure studies, Whistler sketched Maud standing in an undefined setting. The vignette format he created contributes to the spatial ambiguity of the design and illustrates the “secret” drawing technique Whistler began using at this time. According to the Pennells, who were Whistler’s biographers, he would draw the main focus of his interest first and then surround

it with whatever secondary details attracted him.(8) The only ancillary feature that appears to have interested Whistler in the MWPI drawing was the black wash which, when juxtaposed against Maud’s lighter—toned dress, creates the type of harmonious tonal relationship Whistler sought in his art.


1. This date was suggested by Margaret F. MacDonald in 1971 in an unpublished study of the museum’s collection of Whistler drawings, [7], curatorial files, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute.

2. [MacDonald], Whistler: The Graphic Work, 28, cat. no. 51. 7.

3. Way, Whistler, facing 58.

4. Margaret F. MacDonald, “Maud Franklin,” in James McNeill Whistler: A Reexamination ed. by Ruth E. Fine, vol. 19 in Studies in the History of Art (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1987), 13-26.

5. Way, Whistler, 15. ofjames

6. See, for example, figs. 105, 124, 130, and 155 in vol. 2 of Andrew McLaren

Young, et al., The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Pressm 1980). Margaret F. MacDonald has noted (Whistler: The Graphic Work 28, cat. No. 51) that the MWPI drawing was made for some larger composition, now lost.

7. I am grateful to Otto C. Thieme, curator of costumes and textiles at the Cincinnati Art Museum, for help in identifying Maud’s dress, in telephone conversation with author, December 26 1993.

8. E. R. and J. Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1919), 200-202. See also Katharine A. Lochman, The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 189.


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