Artist: James Abbott Mcneill Whistler
Size: 144 x 162 cm
Museum: Musée d'Orsay (Paris, France)
Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, famous under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother, is an 1871 oil-on-canvas painting by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler. The painting is 56.81 by 63.94 inches (144.3 cm × 162.4 cm), displayed in a frame of Whistler's own design in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, having been bought by the French state in 1891. It is now one of the most famous works by an American artist outside the United States. It has been variously described as an American icon and a Victorian Mona Lisa. Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the 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 work was shown at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872), but first came within a hair's breadth of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened the rift between Whistler and the British art world; Arrangement would be the last painting he would submit for the Academy's approval. The sensibilities of a Victorian era viewing audience would not accept what was apparently a portrait being exhibited as a mere "arrangement"; thus the explanatory title "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" was appended. It was from this that the work acquired its popular name. After Thomas Carlyle viewed the painting, he agreed to sit for a similar composition, this one being titled Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2. Thus the previous painting became Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 more or less by default.
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