Ann.S.Dean@BTOpenWorld.comVictorian Art & Design Whistler 2, Portraits

Whistler's portraits were usually named after the main colours in the painting. In 1871 he painted a portrait of his mother, shown below. In 1872 he exhibited it at the Royal Academy as Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother. It belongs to the Musee d' Orsay in Paris. 

The London banker William Alexander saw Whistler's portrait of his mother at the Royal Academy. He asked Whistler to paint portraits of four of his six daughters. Whistler started a portrait of ten year old May in a black riding habit. She fell ill so he never finished it. Instead he painted the eight year old Cicely. He told her mother exactly what sort of white muslin she was to wear. She had to stand still for hours and it took seventy sittings! Whistler gave it the title, Miss Cicely Alexander, Harmony in Grey and Green. 

The great writer, Thomas Carlyle visited Whistler's studio and saw the portrait of his mother. Carlyle agreed to let Whistler paint his portrait. He complained that Whistler spent far more time painting his coat than painting his face. Thomas Carlyle, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 2 is shown on the left. Whistler's butterfly signature is painted in a white oval on the wall.
    The wealthy Liverpool art collector, Frederick Leyland asked Whistler to paint his portrait and that of his wife. Her portrait, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink, is in the Frick Collection in New York. Frederick Leyland's portrait,  Arrangement in Black, is in the Freer Gallery in Washington.
It was for Leyland that Whistler created his amazing Peacock Room.