La Belle Dame Endormie

woman sleeping in chair

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
La Belle Dame Endormie, 1894
Transfer lithograph, black ink on ivory laid paper
12 3/4 × 8 1/8 in. (32.3 × 20.6 cm)
Only state
Printed, center left, and signed in graphite, below image, at lower right: Whistler’s butterfly monogram
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection

 

Working on transfer paper with broad, rapid strokes of a lithographic crayon, Whistler captured his wife, Beatrice, resting on an armchair in their Paris apartment. The artist’s sureness of touch reveals his extraordinary skill as a draftsman and the intimacy of his connection with his subject. Already ill with cancer, Beatrice would die two years after this print was published. This poignant work is printed on old laid paper removed from a book of blank sheets, giving it the look of a drawing pulled from a sketchbook. To his printer, Whistler wrote, "this is, certainly, at present, my favorite lithograph."