Scherzo in blue -- The Blue Girl
One of the most perplexing decisions we had to make in creating our version of Whister's "Arrange in Flesh Colour and Grey" concerned "Scherzo in blue -- The Blue Girl," which was the only large painting included in the 1884 exhibition. Period reviews suggest that "The Blue Girl" was hung in the most prominent location in the gallery, in the middle of the back wall, facing the entrance. Whistler's correspondence suggests that he intended to juxtapose the large painting with the sixty-six small paintings, drawings, pastels -- stars of different magnitudes, grouped around a blue moon -- a lifesize full-length portrait, called by the artist "Scherzo in blue -- The Blue Girl." Many reviewers complained about Whistler's treatment of the model's face, and Whistler eventually destroyed the painting, although his first biographers published a photo of it in 1911.
Faced with a choice between including no large portrait and the "wrong" large portrait, we decided to make Whistler's "Arrangement in White and Black" the focal point of our installation. "Arrangement in White and Black" was completed a few years before "The Blue Girl." The model is a few years older than the model in the destroyed painting and the color is very different, but it is a life-sized image of similarly assertive young woman. By substituting "Arrangement in White and Black" for the destroyed painting, we were able to recreate the play of scale that was integral to Whistler's conception of the 1884 installation.