James McNeill Whistler

Only three of Whistler's works are presented, as they form, for me, a representative sample.

cremorn  light Nocturne Blue And Silver Cremorne Lights, 1872

Whistler explained this painting of the Thames as:  "By using the word 'nocturne' I wished to indicate an artistic interest alone, divesting the picture of any outside anecdotal interest which might have been otherwise attached to it. A nocturne is an arrangement of line, form and colour first."

In 1861 Whistler painted his first popular work, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl. The portrait of his mistress and business manager Joanna Hiffernan was created as a study in white; however, others saw it differently. One critic thought the painting an allegory of a new bride's lost innocence. Others linked it to a popular novel of the time or a painting in the Pre-Raphaelite manner. Critics never run short of opinions.

peacock room Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, 1876-77

Frederick Leyland left the room, whose primary purpose was to display his china collection, in Whistler's care to harmonize the room. Eventually, Charles Freer purchased the entire room in 1904 from Leyland's heirs and had the contents of the Peacock Room installed in his Detroit home. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was permanently installed in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.