James McNeill Whistler
Whistler began to work seriously in watercolor about 1880, first for landscapes, then increasingly for casual female figure studies. This watercolor is unusual in being so highly articulated, one of a small number done in the early 1880s that possess an authority and finish comparable to the artist's full-length portraits in oil, which were styled after the Spanish master Velázquez's work. With his sitters, Whistler typically transformed the uncanny presence of Velázquez's subjects-darkly attired and often emerging from tenebrous backgrounds or silhouetted against tan ones-into figural impressions, such as that of the woman depicted here. The exact identity of the sitter is unknown, but her facial features and attitude suggest either Millie Finch, one of Whistler's frequent models, or the actress Kate Munro, whom Whistler painted several times. Medium: watercolor and gouache on dark brown wove paper.
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