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Friday, September 07, 2012

A New Whistler Exhibition at Freer

James Abbott McNeil Whistler, Chelsea Children
watercolor on paper, mid 1880's
Freer Gallery, Gift of Charles Lang Freer
no copyright infringement intended

A new exhibition starts at Freer Gallery tomorrow, and it will be open for one year, till September 8, 2013. It's named Whistler's Neighborhood: Impressions on a Changing London - an exhibition gathering diminutive etchings, watercolors, and small oil paintings. The neighborhood is Chelsea, where Whistler lived for forty years, from 1863 to his death in 1903. Nowhere in England could you find better material for pictures than in Chelsea ... but it was then practically owned by James McNeill Whistler, says Dorothy Menpes (World pictures; being a record in colour, 1902, R.H.Russell publisher), and she goes on, there were his little shops, his rag shops, his green-grocer shops, and his sweet shops; in fact, so nearly was it all his, that after a time he sternly forbade other painters to work there at all (http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/future.asp). I'm thinking at the Paris of Marville, a city caught in an epoch of dramatic transformations: one can say the same by looking at the works of Whistler - a Chelsea caught in an epoch of radical metamorphosing. The construction of the Thames Embankment was erasing the topography as it had been known and the old homes were preparing to disappear, to make place to the new elegant mansions for the rich. It had been a community of artists, and aristocrats, and tradesmen, and poor people. It was becoming a very expensive neighborhood. And, like Marville with his Parisian photos, Whistler was the singer of an old tune.

(Smithsonian Castle)


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