Whistler’s Mother at The Clark
Also at The Clark Institute of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts this summer is the iconic Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, called the most famous painting by an American artist held permanently outside of the United States.
The upper building in which the work is exhibited in Williamstown is modest and manageable, but the painting itself was too much for me. Too many eyes have seen this strong woman, too many hopes have been laid on her. She is the mother of all of us, the patient matriarch, stately and beautiful, sitting still for her son in a dark formal dress and lace. The canvas is large 4″ x 5″. The crowd around her and all the hopes that have been pinned on her filled the room for me. I took a quick look, got her into my memory, and went on to the small Whistler line drawings that filled the other rooms.
Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an “Arrangement in Grey and Black.” Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public care about the identity of the portrait? –James McNeil Whistler 1890