UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Gertrude Elizabeth Campbell, 1857-1911

Nationality: Irish
Date of Birth: 1857.05.03
Place of Birth: Dublin
Date of Death: 1911.11.01
Place of Death:

Identity:

Gertrude Elizabeth Campbell, née Blood, Lady Colin Campbell, was the daughter of Mary Amy Blood and Edmond Maghlin Blood of Brickhill, Co. Clare. In 1881 she married Lord Colin Campbell, the fifth son of the eighth Duke of Argyll, who was MP for Argyllshire from 1878 to 1885. Campbell obtained a judicial separation from her husband in 1884 on the grounds of cruelty. In 1886 she petitioned for divorce. Following the divorce case, which was dismissed from court, Lord Campbell went to Bombay where he died in 1895.

Life:

Lady Colin Campbell posed for JW in August and September of 1886 but the portrait, Harmony in White and Ivory: Portrait of Lady Colin Campbell (YMSM 354), was never finished. JW had hoped to have the picture complete before Campbell's divorce case went to court. However, it was nevertheless exhibited at the Society of British Artists in December 1886, being described in the catalogue as unfinished. Wyke Bayliss, who later succeeded JW as President of the Society, after it had been awarded a Royal Charter, felt that the picture should be removed from the exhibition, perhaps because of its unfinished state or because of the controversial circumstances surrounding the sitter. Around 1893 Giovanni Boldini also painted a rather controversial portrait of this society figure. She was depicted in a sensuous and animated way, taking up an unladylike pose with her legs apart (National Portrait Gallery, London). William Sharp described her as seeming to discard 'her lower limbs'.

Campbell's sister-in-law Lady Archibald Campbell had already been painted by JW (see Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell in Court Dress (YMSM 240), The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 241), and Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242)). Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242) had also been a controversial painting. Lady Archibald Campbell, posed in JW's studio in Tite Street against a background of black velvet, was thought by the family look like a common prostitute.

Lady Colin Campbell, herself an amateur artist, exhibited a sketch at the SBA exhibition of 1886-87. She had a deep interest in art, as well as literature, fashion and sport, and became art critic of The World, and editor of the Ladies Field. She also wrote several books including Darell Blake, A Book of the Running Brook and A Miracle in Rabbits.

Bibliography:

Sharp, William, Fair Women in Painting and Poetry, London, 1894; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, London, 2002; MacDonald, Margaret F. et al, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003.