WHISTLER, James Abbot McNeill
(b. 1834, Lowell, d. 1903, London)

The Artist's Mother

Oil on canvas, 144 x 163 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Whistler painted this famous picture in the summer of 1871 in London. It represents the 67-year-old Anna Mathilda Whistler, the artist's mother. She is shown in profile, seated on a chair, incorporated formally within a rigid system of verticals and horizontals provided by the floorboards, curtain, chair-back, footstool, and pictures on the wall. The woman, dressed in black and wearing a white bonnet, stands out clearly against the gray wall; form and colour thereby subordinate to the overall design of the picture

This portrait stands at the beginning of Whistler's successful career as a portrait painter, and already contains all the characteristics of his subsequent works.