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Featured Masterpiece  

This month's featured oil painting is Whistler's 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother'.

American-born, British-based oil painter and etcher. Averse to sentimentality in oil painting, he was a leading proponent of the credo art for arts sake. He took to signing his paintings with a stylized butterfly, possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for Whistler's art work was characterized by a subtle delicacy, in contrast to his combative public persona.

Whistler is best known for the nearly monochromatic full-length figure titled Arrangement in Gray and Black: Portrait of the Artists Mother, but usually referred to as Whistlers Mother. The oil painting was later purchased by the French government. Though American, Whistler lived and worked mainly in Britain and France.

The oil painting is 56.81 x 63.94 inches, displayed in a frame of Whistler's own design, and is now owned by the Musee d Orsay in Paris. It occasionally tours worldwide. Although an icon of American art, it rarely appears in the United States, having toured in 1932-1934, appeared at the National Gallery of Art in 1994 and the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2004. It appeared at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts from June to September 2006.

Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the oil painting while living in London with her son. Several unverifiable stories surround the making of the painting itself; one is that Anna Whistler acted as a replacement for another model who couldn't make the appointment. Another is that Whistler originally envisioned painting the model standing up, but that his mother was too uncomfortable to pose standing for an extended period.

The art work was shown at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872), but first came within a hairs breadth of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened the rift between Whistler and the British art world; Arrangement would be the last oil painting he would submit for the Academys approval.



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