Whistler’s Mother

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, James McNeill Whistler, 1871
Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, James McNeill Whistler, 1871

After my last post I decided to post Whistler’s Mother herself. And wouldn’t you know it, I find out that this painting has been described as a “Victorian Mona Lisa!” I’ll have to let my husband know he was closer to the truth than I gave him credit for.

So what is the big deal about Whistler’s Mother? Apparently, Whistler doesn’t think the identity of his mother in the portrait should be important to anyone but himself. He titled the painting “Arrangement in Grey and Black.” (A later arrangement in grey and black became No. 2, therefore making this one No. 1 by default.) However, Whistler didn’t count on the fondness mankind has for its mothers. And I believe some of that sentimentality has found its way into the meaning of the painting. It’s one of those paintings that prove meaning does not come solely from the artist; much of it comes from the viewer.

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