April 08, 2011
Art Week: Whistler
James McNeill Whistler's Violet and Silver: A Deep Sea is one of the collection of diminutive paintings by Whistler, owned by the Freer Museum in Washington (My favorite museum in Washington). Alas, it is not on display right now. In this same collection is my very favorite painting, The Angry Sea. Measuring only 12x21 inches, it, and Violet and Silver above, are essentially broad swaths of color, with the merest hints of waves, clouds. Clearly, they are still representational and realistic, though so much more minimal that their predecessors (Turner and Manet to name a few). I think of them as meditations on abstraction and realism. Indeed, the first time I ever saw them, I had found myself with a couple idle hours downtown (this was before I lived here), and I wandered into the Freer, intent on reading my book in the Peacock room. But I spent two whole hours sitting, staring at these little treasures. For the first time, I began to understand modern art, and the beginning steps of abstraction. It was a revelation, and a fitting end to these daily artistic offerings.