Whistler’s Mother: An American Icon Returns to Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

May. 22, 2024 - May. 22, 2027

111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Phone (312) 443-3600


…following quote taken from the Art Institute of Chicago website.  “In 1878, James McNeill Whistler said about his most famous painting, Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1, or The Artist’s Mother, “Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black.’ Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public to care about the identity of the portrait?” Painted in 1871, the portrait was intended to demonstrate Whistler’s recent focus on tonal harmonies over subject matter.

Both austere and ambitious, accurate and abstract, the portrait serves as a quintessential expression of his then-newly developed “art for art’s sake” aesthetic. The composition—better known today as “Whistler’s Mother”—was initially met with puzzlement, but it was soon heralded, spurring a staggering quantity of critical responses, reproductions in various media, and references within popular culture. Despite Whistler’s intentions, the portrait of Anna McNeill Whistler has thus become an icon of motherhood, beloved by Americans but rarely seen in the United States.”

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