James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), Harmony in Pink and in Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, 1881–82, oil on canvas, The Frick Collection
Harmony in Pink and Grey:
Portrait of Lady Meux
Valerie Meux, a woman of humble origins, married the wealthy London brewer and baronet Henry Bruce Meux in 1878. This picture conveys both her newfound wealth and the defiant attitude with which she confronted
the disdain of her husband’s family and social circle.
Rapid strokes of opaque white over cool pink render
the reflective sheen of her satin vest and the trim of her dazzling train. In translating the haute-couture dress into paint, Whistler modified its forms to serve the visual rhythms of his picture. The coarse canvas he chose for the work lends its texture to the thinly painted curtain, rendered with long vertical strokes of gently varied tones.