Editor's note: The Taft Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Taft Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:



James McNeill Whistler: Selected Works from the Hunterian Art Gallery

March 4 - May 22, 2005


(above: James McNeill Whistler, Beatrix Whistler, 1892-1894, lithograph, 18.5 x 19.8 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. This is a posthumous printing. After Whistler's death in 1903, his heir and sister-in-law, Rosalind Birnie Philip, commissioned the London printer, Frederick Goulding, to print posthumous editions of many of Whistler's lithographs. Between October 1903 and May 1904, Goulding pulled impressions from 94 stones and transferred and printed 10 previously untransferred lithographic drawings. This portrait of Whistler's wife was drawn on stone, but never printed during his lifetime. It is not known precisely when Whistler drew this image, but Beatrix, who would have been thirty-five or thirty-six at the time, looks youthful and healthy.)


The Taft Museum of Art is the only Midwest venue for a U.S. tour of works by James McNeill Whistler from the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. The exhibition features 12 oil paintings and 57 works on paper. Whistler's most well-known subject matter will be on view, including a few elegant portraits and some striking landscapes and urban views of France and England. But the exhibition also unveils the private side of Whistler, by presenting a selection of female nude studies that are much less familiar. The works on paper consist of a wide range of media: drawings, watercolors, etchings, lithographs, and designs for interior decoration. (left: James McNeill Whistler, Little Lizzie Willis, about 1896-99, Oil on canvas, 51.4 x 31.4 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. The sitter, Lizzie Willis, was the eight-year-old daughter of Whistler's housekeeper at 8 Fitzroy Street, London. This piece appears unfinished, as Whistler has only sketched in the shape of her dress in crayon in a rudimentary fashion.)

"Of particular interest is the large group of etchings, a medium for which Whistler is renowned," said Lynne Ambrosini, chief curator at the Taft Museum of Art. "These are masterpieces, examples that Whistler kept for himself, and key objects in the etching revival of the mid-19th century in England and France."

As the repository of items from Whistler's estate, the Hunterian Art Gallery owns one of the world's top three collections of Whistler's art, ranging from paintings to prints to sketch designs for costumes, interiors, and graphic images.

The art in the exhibition is complemented by a selection of objects from Whistler's personal collection. On display are silverware, porcelain, letters, manuscripts, and books that enhance our understanding of this complex and innovative artist.

The exhibition also provides a rich context for the Taft's early painting by Whistler, At the Piano. Completed in 1858­59, the painting was Whistler's first major oil and earned him acceptance into the British Royal Academy in 1860.


About James McNeill Whistler

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1834, and moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, with his parents when he was nine years old. After returning to the United States for several years to attend West Point, he left for England at age 21, determined to make a career as an artist. He eventually became one of the leading members of the Aesthetic Movement. This movement's "art for art's sake" philosophy can be seen in many of Whistler's paintings that emphasize color and mood rather than representational subject matter. As an expatriate American artist, Whistler acted as an important link between the avant-garde artistic worlds of Europe, Britain, and the United States.

Whistler died in London in 1903. His sister-in-law inherited his estate and the contents of his studio, which she left to the University of Glasgow's art museum, which later became the Hunterian Art Gallery.

James McNeill Whistler is an exhibition from the Hunterian Museum, Cardiff/Tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Inc., Washington, D.C.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Cinergy Foundation, the Warrington Exhibition Endowment, the Kloenne Foundation, and funded through the Institute for Museum and Library Services, by and Act of Congress, in accordance with the FY 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Bill. Season media partner is WCPO-TV. Fine Arts Fund partner is Procter & Gamble.


(above: James McNeill Whistler, Annie, Seated, 1858, black ink on white wove paper, 12.6 x 9.3 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. The sitter for this image is Whistler's niece, Annie Haden. It is likely that she sat for Whistler during a period of recuperation he spent at the Hadens' home in early 1858. The plate for this etching was made directly from nature.)


(above: James McNeill Whistler, Longshoremen, 1859, etching, 15.1 x 22.7 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. Whistler made this etching in 1859 at a riverside tavern on the Thames. The subject is of working men from the wharves and docks of the Thames and in drawing the figures, Whistler moved away from precise attention to detail, drawing more feely with a succession of clean lines.)


(above: James McNeill Whistler, Designs for wall decorations for Aubrey House, about 1873-74, charcoal and gouache on brown paper, 15.1 x 10.2 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. W.C. Alexander bought Aubrey House in 1873. Unfortunately, Whistler's designs in "various carefully selected pastel shades" for the early nineteenth-century panelling of the 'White Room' were removed in 1913. The apparent abstraction of these designs is deceptive. They are actually beach scenes. They can be seen as a simplified view of nature, with horizontal bands of colour, washes of blue and cream, suggesting sky, sea and breakers, and spots of light, like shingle or ripples, at the edge of the water.)


(above: James McNeill Whistler, Seymour, Seated (A Little Boy), 1857-1858, etching, 13.6 x 9.8 inches. The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow. The sitter for this image is Whistler's nephew, Seymour Haden, and it is likely that he sat for the artist during a period of recuperation which Whistler spent in the Hadens' home in early 1858. The plate for this etching was made directly from nature.)

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy these earlier articles:


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Taft Museum of Art in Resource Library.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library .for thousands of articles and essays on American art and much more.

Copyright 2005 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.