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Private Life Of A Masterpiece - Whistler's Mother

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The Private Life Of A Masterpiece

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother

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 x 63.94 inches (144.3 x 162.4 cm), displayed in a frame of Whistler's own design, and is now owned by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. It occasionally tours worldwide. Although an icon of American art, it rarely appears in the United States, having toured in 1932-1934, appeared at the Atlanta Art Association in the fall of 1962, the National Gallery of Art in 1994 and the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2004. It appeared at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts from June to September 2006.

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.

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