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The Letter (Maud, seated)

Accession Number
1993/2.33

Title
The Letter (Maud, seated)

Artist(s)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
1873

Medium & Support
drypoint on old laid paper

Dimensions
7 7/8 in. x 6 in. ( 20 cm x 15.3 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Alan and Marianne Schwartz

Label copy
Reading
1879
Lithograph with scraping on china paper
Fourth state of four (Way 13; Chicago 17)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.422
Maud, Seated
1873
Drypoint
Second state of three (Kennedy 115)
Gift of Alan and Marianne Schwartz, 1993/2.33
Maud Franklin, the subject of both of these prints, was a young model and artist who may have been a stand-in for Whistler’s portraits of Frances Leyland in the early 1870s; she eventually became his mistress and bore him two daughters. Whistler made numerous portraits of her in all media—here lithograph and drypoint—often depicting her as a lady of leisure, although because of her relationship with him she was never accepted in society.
In Reading, Whistler unites figure and background using the same parallel diagonal hatching lines seen in The Guitar Player to create the shallow space in which Maud sits. He made several alternate views of this subject before zeroing in on this one. Though a lithograph, Reading seems so like a drawing that in 1889 The Magazine of Art mistakenly described it as “india ink and crayon.” In it, Whistler creates tones by using the lithographic crayon as he would charcoal or conté crayon to create shading and lines of varying density, and the print exhibits the immediacy of a rapidly executed sketch. Indeed, the lines that unite the figure of Maud with her background in Reading are closely related to an actual crayon drawing of a woman seated at a piano in which both figure and background are formed through sweeping diagonal lines.
The small drypoint Maud, Seated has the intimacy of Whistler’s chalk drawings of female models from the period. The work, which evokes a very private feeling, was never printed in an edition and very few impressions were taken from the plate.

Subject matter
This rare etching is only known in eight impressions and depicts Whistler's model and mistress, Maud Franklin.

Physical Description
A woman is seen seated in a chair, facing to the left but looking towards the viewer. She is in a long dress with long sleeves. She has her hands in her lap and holds a sheet of paper.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Rights
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Keywords
seated

& Author Notes

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