UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

Fusco

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
(46771)
Number: 106
Date: 1872
Medium: drypoint
Size: 208 x 132 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 7
Catalogues: K.99; M.98; T.73; W.90
Impressions taken from this plate  (7)

KEYWORD

full-length, man standing, model, nude, portrait.

TITLE

The sitter has not been identified and Whistler's titles are not consistent, so various titles have been used, as follows:


'Fusco' (1870s, Whistler). 2
'Fosco' [?] (1870s, Whistler). 3
'Fosco' (1877, Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890)). 4
' “Fosco” (A model)' (1881, Union League Club).. 5
'Fosco' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 6


Later cataloguers settled on 'Fosco' but except for Wilkie Collins's villain Count Fosco, the name is unusual. Fusco is a much more common Italian name. Whistler wrote 'Fusco' clearly on one etching and this is probably the correct name and therefore the correct title.

2: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K0990108.

3: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K0990102.

4: Howell to Whistler, [6-25 November 1877], #02178.

5: New York 1881 (cat. no. 121).

6: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 90).

DESCRIPTION

A nude male model with wavy hair stands looking toward the front, his face in three-quarter view to left. His body is seen partly from behind, turning to the right. His weight rests on his left leg, his right foot stretches forward to left, and his left hand reaches out to left, holding a long staff. There is shading in the background, chiefly at the left of the figure.

SITTER

Whistler wrote: 'Fusco' on one impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K0990108). 'Fusco' appears to have been a professional model, and the pose, holding a staff, is typical of academic life-studies. He may have been a model at life-classes organised by Victor Barthe (b. ca 1839), which Whistler attended in the 1870s. Fusco is a fairly uncommon name, but there was a family of that name based in Bradford, and later Edinburgh. For instance, in the 1881 census two Italian-born British subjects, Benedetto Fusco, aged 30, and Michelangelo Fusco, aged 23, travelling musicians, were recorded in Bradford, Yorkshire.
According to Walter Greaves (1846-1930), Whistler made studies from the nude when working on the portrait of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland [y097], in the early 1870s. 7 Greaves - writing many years later - recorded that Whistler kept rubbing the painting down and eventually got 'a well-known Italian model named Fosco to pose nude for the figure. Whistler would first of all paint the figure in flesh-coloured distemper, then add on the dress suit, then rub it all out and start again.' 8 Greaves added that one day the artist's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), wanted to see Leyland's portrait:

7: Pennell 1908 , vol. 1, p. 176.

8: Exh. cat., London, Goupil, 1922, pp. 19-20.

'... the figure was at the time painted in the nude ... However she so insisted on seeing it that I had no alternative but to turn the canvas round from the wall. Then she remarked "Oh dear! oh dear! I thought the picture was finished a long while ago; when will my son finish it?" ' 9

9: ibid., pp. 19-20.

The name 'Fosco' is best known from 'Count Fosco', the smooth villain in Wilkie Collins's melodramatic novel The Woman in White of 1859-1860. The book was adapted for the theatre in 1860, revived in 1870 and extensively rewritten by Collins for a successful production at the Olympic Theatre from 9 October 1871 to 24 February 1872. The author's production thus dates from the same year as the drypoint, but this appears to be entirely a coincidence. Fosco, 'the most urbane of villains', was acted by George J. Vining (1824-1875). 10 Vining was considerably more portly than Whistler's 'Fusco', as was Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), who took 'Fosco' as his nickname when an undergraduate at Oxford.

10: The Times, London, 12 October 1871, p. 4.

DISCUSSION

Although Whistler made a number of drawings and etchings of professional women models, including Matilda Gilchrist (b. 1828 or 1829) and later, Rose Amy Pettigrew (b. 1872), this is the only nude male model.