June 29, 2010

Meeting Whistler's Mother

I think I mentioned, but now can't remember, that I was going to go to a truly remarkable exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, CA: The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee D'Orsay.  I have a lot to say about this exhibit, and need to just sit down and write it all out, but today I just want to mention briefly that the sole American contribution to this exhibit was Whistler's masterpiece, Arrangement in Grey and Black (above).  The work, commonly referred to as "Whistler's Mother" is one of my all time favorite works of art.  I love everythingng Whistler ever touched, but Whilstler's Mother encourages the same sort of mystique and allure that I imagine most people feel about the Mona Lisa.  I find it captivating; but it is also so familiar that I've stopped being able to tell why I'm drawn to it. 

Anyway, when I saw it in person, I was taken by all the details.  The tonality of the wall and the floor, the detail of her lace, the etching hung on the wall.  The velvety depth of her black gown.  And the CURTAINS.  Oh, I looked at those curtains for a full 5 minutes, and am filing them away in my mind for a future home.  And aren't you just dying to know what she was thinking of as she sat there in the hands of a master?  It is so supremely balanced, but I can't tell if his gaze is detached and stoical, or lovingly precise.

Most thrilling of all, however, was that I got to see it with Mom and Dad.  It was a dream come true for Mom, as Whistler is her very favorite artist.


  1. It's the etching I love best, so recognizably a Whistler etching and of a recognizable place -- Stonehenge.

    I alway knew he was a perfectionist, but this is attention to detail very deep and very precise.

  2. Steve3:15 AM

    whistler's Mother was thinking, "He could have been a doctor, or a lawyer, but no, he had to be an 'artiste' and now he has me sitting here twiddling my thumbs while my stories are on."