Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Art Review - "Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl" by James McNeill Whistler - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Today's #MuseumTourTuesday features a beautiful painting by James McNeill Whistler at the National Gallery of Art.

Whistler painted this portrait of his mistress, Joanna Hiffernan, for the 1862 Royal Academy of Arts exhibition in London, where it was promptly rejected. Whistler then entered it into the 1863 Paris Salon, but was again rejected by the jury.


What did Whistler do next after these two heartbreaking rejections? He exhibited the painting in the Salon des Refusés, a protest exhibition organized by Gustave Courbet in response to the Paris Salon having rejected two-thirds of all submissions to its 1863 show.

Courbet's exhibition made history, with over one thousand visitors a day, legitimizing the emerging avant-garde in painting.

If Whistler can face multiple rejections and still move forward, we all can. The only opinion of our work that truly matters is our own.
 
"Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl"
 • James McNeill Whistler 
• 1862

• Oil on Canvas
 • 83 7/8" x 42 1/2"
 
While the painting overall is beautiful, I am personally drawn more to the rug and carpet than the portrait of Joanna. The contrasting paint application of the organic wolf skin rug vs. the more rigid carpet make them far more interesting.

Detail - "Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl"
 • James McNeill Whistler 
• 1862

• Oil on Canvas
 • 83 7/8" x 42 1/2"

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

 
© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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