National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian James McNeill Whistler (artist)
American, 1834 - 1903
Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian, 1888(?)-1900
oil on canvas
overall: 191.5 x 89.8 cm (75 3/8 x 35 3/8 in.) framed: 212.4 x 109.9 cm (83 5/8 x 43 1/4 in.)
Harris Whittemore Collection
On View
From the Tour: Whistler, Sargent, and Tanner — Americans Abroad in the Late 1800s
Object 7 of 7

Whistler claimed to excel Diego Velazquez, the seventeenth-century master from Andalusia, Spain. What creates the somber, Spanish mood in Whistler's Andalusian are the haughty beauty's backward swerve as well as the cool grays and warm tans that shimmer through her gown's black net fabric. The outfit, however, is no more Spanish than the model. Her layered sleeves and chignon, fashionable internationally during the 1890s, are worn here by Whistler's English sister-in-law.

Ethel Birnie Philip, daughter of a sculptor, married in 1895. The next year saw the death of her sister, who was Whistler's wife. This elegant depiction of light gleaming in the dark, though, represents neither a bride nor a mourner. Whistler firmly stated, "Art should be independent of clap-trap—should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism and the like."

In Brown and Gold: Self-Portrait, the dapper artist shows himself in his mid-sixties with a monocle and a streak of white hair. The only strong color is Whistler's proudest possession, the red lapel rosette that he had received in 1889 as a knight of the French Legion of Honor. Hovering at the right is an abstracted motif that served as Whistler's signature after the 1860s. It is a butterfly armed with a stinger.

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