Note in Blue and Opal—The Sun Cloud

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
1883 or 1884
Oil on wood panel
H x W: 12.4 x 21.7 cm (4 7/8 x 8 9/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

cloud, farming, landscape, United States

To 1904
Wickham Flower (circa 1836-1904), London, to 1904 [1]

P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, purchased at the sale of the Wickham Flower Collection, Christie's, December 17, 1904 [2]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. in 1904 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] According to Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record: " Purchased from Mr. Desprez of P. and D. Colnaghi and Co., London, in 1904, and by them purchased at Christie's Sale, December 17, 1904, of the Wickham Flower Collection."

[2] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 15-1/2, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

P. & D. Colnaghi (C.L. Freer source)
Wickham Flower ca. 1836-1904
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Ten of the St. Ives oils, including Note in Blue and Opal: The Sun Cloud, were included in an exhibition of Whistler's work that opened at the Dowdeswells' Gallery in London in May 1884. One unusually sympathetic reviewer praised several of the St. Ives subjects for their "high finish" (provocatively redefining "finish" in a very unconventional way) and bravura brushwork: "Beauty of handling and high finish will be specially noticed in the landscapes, principally Cornish, particularly 'Blue and gold-The Schooner' [private collection]; 'Harmony in brown and gold-Old Chelsea Church', 'Grey and silver mist' , and 'Blue and grey-Unloading' [all Freer Gallery of Art];' the most brilliant in colour being a 'Note in blue and opal-the Sun Cloud.'" Recent research suggests that this review was submitted by one of the Gallery owners-and that much of it had been written by Whistler.

Quotations from [Walter Dowdeswell], <Mr. Whistler and His Art, Artist and Journal of Home Culture, June 1, 1884.

Published References
  • Whistler portfolio. London. pl. 2.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book VIII. Washington, May 1923. .
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. .
  • Charles Henry Caffin. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: Lecture at the Detroit Museum of Art. Detroit, Friday, April 23, 1909. p. 38.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. p. 38.
  • Kenneth Myers. Mr. Whistler's Gallery: Pictures at an 1884 Exhibition. Washington. cat. 13, p. 39.
  • Donald Holden. Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes. New York. p. 59, pl. 19.
  • Mortimer Menpes. Whistler As I Knew Him. London. p. 70.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 134, pl. 38.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 153, p. 171.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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