Lot 48
  • 48

JAMES MCNEILL WHISTLER | Portrait of Ellen Sturgis Hooper

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • James McNeill Whistler
  • Portrait of Ellen Sturgis Hooper
  • oil on panel
  • 20 1/4 by 12 inches
  • (51.4 by 30.5 cm)
  • Painted in 1890.


Edward W. Hooper, Boston, Massachusetts, 1890 (father of the sitter, commissioned from the artist)
Ellen Sturgis Hooper, 1901 (his daughter, the sitter, by descent)
Mrs. John B. Swann, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1974 (her daughter, by descent)
[With]Peter Nahum, Leicester Galleries, London
The Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1993


Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Society, Copley Hall, Loan Collection of Portraits of Women for the Benefit of The Boston Childrens' Aid Society and the Sunnyside Day Nursery, March 1895, no. 880
Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Hall and Allston Hall, Loan Exhibition of Pictures by Modern Painters, March 1898
Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Society, Copley Hall, Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, February 1904, no. 50
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, 1907 (on loan)
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Oils, Watercolors, Drawings and Prints by James McNeill Whistler, April-May 1934, no. 18, n.p.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan Art Gallery, Whistler: The Later Years, August-October 1978, no. 96, n.p.
Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Paintings in Southern California Collections: From Gilbert Stuart to Georgia O'Keeffe, March-May 1996, p. 68, illustrated
New York, Vance Jordan Fine Art, Inc., Selections from the Libby & Bill Clark Collection, October-December 2001, pp. 62-63, illustrated pl. 20, p. 32


John Borden Armstrong, "Portrait of a Lady: A Recollection of Whistler," Art Journal, vol. XXV, no. 3, Spring 1966, pp. 250-251
Nesta Spink and John Holmes, Whistler: The Later Years, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1978, p. 96
Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven, Connecticut, 1980, no. 391, pp. 173-174, illustrated pl. 245
(probably) "Collections Unveiled at Vance Jordan," Antiques and the Arts Weekly, October 2, 2001, n.p.
Grischka Petri, Arrangement in Business: The Art Markets and the Career of James McNeill Whistler, Hildesheim, Germany, 2011, p. 528


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes, Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in good condition. The panel is flat. The paint layer is stable and varnished. Very small and isolated retouches are visible under ultraviolet light. There are signs of frame abrasion on all four edges. The painting itself may have darkened over time. It seems unlikely that the work can be cleaned. It is certainly an extremely delicate paint layer that should be treated very cautiously if cleaned. The work can certainly be tested to see if it will clean, but it may be that it should remain in its current state.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The present portrait was commissioned from James McNeill Whistler by Edward W. Hooper on June 20, 1890. Hooper, a treasurer of Harvard College and one of the original trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, first met Whistler in London in 1886. During the summer of 1890, he visited Whistler again at his new studio at 21 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea and submitted his request for a portrait of his eldest daughter, Ellen Sturgis Hooper: "If it will not bore you to make for me a 'note' of my oldest daughter–a red haired girl about seventeen years old–it will give me great satisfaction to have you do so...I have just come from America, and shall be in London only two weeks more" (Letter from Edward W. Hooper to James McNeill Whistler, June 20, 1890). Ellen sat for Whistler approximately twenty times and had "delightful memories of the sittings, which covered about 60 hours, in June and July" (Letter from Ellen Hooper to F. W. Coburn, April 8, 1946).

According to the scholar John Borden Armstrong, who interviewed the sitter: "[Whistler] was interested in Ellen's copper hair and high coloring. She wore a dress made of material sent her by a cousin in Japan, Dr. W. S. Bigelow. It was Japanese linen with a dark blue folded edging and a blocked overall blue pattern. This was composed of ten characters, repeated, 'which meant', she said to me with a little smile, 'happy old age.' Whistler talked very little during the sittings...gave the impression of intense concentration, and painted on long after the best light was gone" ("Portrait of a Lady: A Recollection of Whistler," Art Journal, vol. XXV, no. 3, Spring 1966, pp. 250-51).

This painting is included in the online revised catalogue raisonné of the artist's work prepared by Professor Margaret MacDonald of the University of Glasgow.