Whistler’s Mother

Whistler’s Mother
Artist James McNeill Whistler
Year 1871
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Dimensions 56.8 in × 63.9 in
144.3 cm × 162.4 cm

This iconic painting tours different cities worldwide and it is known to be one of the famous artworks in existence. The oil painting Whistler’s Mother, by James McNeill Whistler, is also known as Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother. This oil in canvas piece is currently owned by Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Until this very day, people are still in awe whenever this painting graces their country’s museum and it has brought a whole new perspective to what art meant for the artist. This beautiful painting measures 56.8 inches by 63.9 inches and is dedicated to Whistler’s mother.

James McNeill

James McNeill Whistler was an American artist who was born on July 10, 1834 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was able to create his first art piece titled, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, in 1861 at the age of 27. He made this piece after he came back from Paris where he studied traditional art methods in Ecole Impériale. Whistler had many influences for his artworks, which can be seen through the different methods he used in his pieces. One of these influences was Charles Baudelaire, who shared his opinion about “modern” art. He inspired McNeill to look at life’s brutality to be able to portray it faithfully and give it greater meaning.

The Model in Whistler’s Mother

This artwork is a portrait of James McNeill Whistler’s mother, Anna McNeill Whistler while they were in London in 1871. It was said that James’ model was not able to commit to the job and it was during this time that James decided to do his mother’s portrait. There was a lot of experimentation before the creation of this famous painting. James Whistler wanted his mother to pose for him while standing up but it proved to be too tiresome for her.

It was in this painting that Whistler was able to express his style in tonal composition and harmony. At first glance the painting appears simple. However, upon closer inspection the artwork indeed portrays a balance between the different shapes in the picture. Whistler was able to achieve harmony in the composition of this artwork. He was able to use the right rectangular shape for the picture on the wall, the floor and on the curtains. The result of this was a better and stable view of his mother’s face, dress and chair.

The World’s View On This Famous Painting

This painting received mixed reactions from different art critics during its time. It was said that the colors and pose of Whistler’s mother was a symbolism of “a grave sentiment of mourning”. This critique may have come from the dark colors that the artist used to create the piece. Others view this amazing work of art as a perfect symbolism of motherhood. No matter how many times this painting is viewed, you can be sure that it depicts a different emotion each time. Today, Whistler’s Mother has proved to be one of the most famous paintings in history.

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