53.5 x 38.5 inscr. in blue ink on label on back of stretcher: "Miss Frances Septima / Birnie Philip / by Mrs Beatrix Whistler; inscr. on stretcher by [Harold Wright]: "Miss Frances Septima Birnie Philip / by Beatrix Whistler (née Philip)"; inscr. in black chalk: "7192" CRE WHISTLER, Beatrix; (English; 1857-1896) Beatrix Whistler's surviving oil paintings are mostly small-scale, intimate studies of domestic settings. They show the women and children of her family reading, sewing, taking tea, etc., subjects echoed by many other female painters of the period. In order to avoid being judged as an amateur woman painter, Beatrix Whistler exhibited under the pseudonym 'Rix Birnie' (an adaptation of her maiden name, Beatrice Birnie Philip), and called herself 'a pupil of Whistler' when she exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists, 1885-8.
Frances Septima Philip (1867-1949) was the seventh child of the sculptor John Birnie Philip (1824-75) and Frances Birnie Philip (1825/6-1917) and thus one of Beatrix Whistler's younger sisters. Whistler called her 'Miss Frank'. She is depicted with her hair up in a chignon. This head and shoulders portrait is on a larger scale than Beatrix Whistler's oil on panel paintings. The composition is simple, the paint applied in blocks of muted colour, allowing the canvas weave to show through in parts. This is particularly effective with the painting of the sitter's white blouse.
This could possibly be the portrait oil that was cleaned and exhibited in 1893 at the '3rd Exhibition', Society of Portrait Painters, Grafton Gallery, London.
Birnie Philip Bequest, 1958