James Whistler - Arrangement in Grey and Blackoil on canvas, 1872, 143.3 × 162.4 cm, Musée d'Orsay in Paris



Description and interpretation of the famous painting 'Arrangement in Grey and Black' by James Whistler!

James Abboth McNeil Whistler - Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Mother of the Artist No. 1

Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Mother of the Artist No. 1 is one of the most famous works of the American artist James Whistler outside the USA. His mother sat as a model for him while she visited her son in London. Anna McNeil Whistler sits on a simple chair, completely calm and with an alert gaze. Carefully she has folded her hands in her lap and encloses a handkerchief. Mrs. Whistler can be seen in an absolute side view. Apart from the person, the room only has a curtain and a framed picture. The work radiates peace and intimacy. 

Besides the carefully and flatteringly worked out face of his mother, Whistler was not only interested in the positive portrayal of his mother. The double title is reminiscent of a stylisation of realistic aesthetics. The psychological significance is reinforced by the simple composition of form and colour. He contrasts the mother's black robe with the linear grey wall. Neutral tones dominate. His straight-line and chromatic construction also illustrate his interest in the field of printing technology. Thus the painting in the black frame represents a view of the Thames, which is part of a series of sixteen etchings of scenes on the Thames: Black Lion Wharf from 1859.

Here Whistler created a painting in which the person portrayed stands alone in a seemingly effortlessly created, sparse but aesthetic composition. He created a work with a similar formal structure when he portrayed the writer Thomas Carlyle. 

© the artinspector / laura gerstmann