Grey and Silver Mist: Life Boat

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
January or March 1884
Oil on wood panel
H x W: 12.3 x 21.6 cm (4 13/16 x 8 1/2 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

boat, United States

Dowdeswell's, London, 1884 [1]

H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, NY, 1889 [2]

To 1914
M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY, to 1914 [3]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY, in January 1914 [4]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [5]


[1] Object file, Exhibition history.

[2] See note 1.

[3] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Whistler List, Purchases since making up the Smithsonian Inventory, p. 15, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[4] See note 3.

[5] 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)

M. Knoedler & Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
H. Wunderlich & Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1874-1912
Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell 1878-1912


Like most or all of the St. Ives oils, Grey and Silver Mist-Life Boat is painted over a light gray ground, areas of which are visible at the far right edge. Probably working from the top down, Whistler used bands of three darker grays to establish the sky, mist, sea, and shore. The swirl of darker gray paint at the lower right evokes the rolling of waves, even as it reminds the viewer of the painter who has contrived the image. The thin orange lines decorating the gunnels of the blue boat emphasize by contrast the cold grayness of the beautiful but bleak scene.

Published References
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. vol. 2: pl. 162.
  • Anna Gruetzner. A Fragile Modernism: Whistler and His Impressionist Followers. New Haven and London, 2007. .
  • Henry Gilbert, Roy Ray, Colin Orchard. All About St. Ives: A Guide to the Town, its Galleries and Art History. p. 9.
  • Tom Roberts. Exh. cat. Australia. p. 34.
  • Kenneth Myers. Mr. Whistler's Gallery: Pictures at an 1884 Exhibition. Washington. cat. 11, p. 37.
  • David Tovey, Tate St. Ives. St. Ives Art pre-1890: The Dawn of the Colony. Exh. cat. Tewkesbury. p. 54.
  • Donald Holden. Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes. New York. p. 61, pl. 20.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 139, pl. 43.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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