It is however, unlikely that Girl in a Fur Wrap, along with Portrait of a Young Woman (1886, 77.5 x 64.2, Private Collection), both represent Eva – even though both appear to be wearing the same evening dress.
With its cream and pale blue satin trimmings and voile fichu, the girl’s dress is modelled on a Worth design, the original of which was worn by Lady Colin Campbell in Whistler's Harmony in White and Ivory, (unlocated, probably destroyed), shown at the Society of British Artists winter exhibition in 1886. The ensemble nevertheless clarifies the aesthetic context of the present work. At the time it was painted one widely reproduced profile portrait – that of Sarah Bernhardt by Lavery’s mentor, Jules Bastien-Lepage – stood above all others. A dramatic white-on-white rendition of the great tragedienne, it conformed to the current emphasis on colour harmony found in Lavery’s growing enthusiasm for Whistler. During that eventful year, when he was using a studio-cottage at the Glen, Fulton’s Paisley estate, as well as his base in Glasgow, Lavery was aware of the great importance of the American artist for young painters of his generation. Within a few months he had met the combative American in London and would go on to exhibit at the British Artists’ society in the following spring. While the incidentals of fashion would change in time, pictorial harmony was, and would remain, a primary characteristic of the young painter’s approach. Girl in a Fur Wrap supplies evidence of both.
Professor Kenneth McConkey
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