Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother - James Whistler (1871)

Known as 'Whistler's Mother', Martha Tedeschi stated that alongside paintings such as Wood's 'American Gothic' (see week 1) Whistler's portrait of his mother has, 'achieved something that most paintings—regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer and successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture.' Like American Gothic, Whistler's mother is looking away from the audience and is dressed in Victorian clothing. This, along with the date, gives the impression that James Whistler is still highly influenced by European art. This image was not well received in England due to its lack of flamboyancy and colour, its description of being 'anti-Victorian simplicity and so creates a feeling of mourning within the image. What I found interesting was that this image is rarely displayed in the United States, only displayed in special exhibitions now and again. Most importantly, this painting was used as an image of national and even worldwide pride on postage stamps during the Great Depression in order to 'thank the mothers of America' in 1939. It has also been parodied heavily in greeting cards, magazine, and by cartoon characters such as Donald Duck.

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