"Whistler's Mother"... the Victorian Mona Lisa |  Gulf newspaper

“Whistler’s Mother”… the Victorian Mona Lisa | Gulf newspaper

Sharjah: Aladdin Mahmoud

Some artworks are painted with love and intense emotion, as they are entrenched in the minds of the art audience, which is involved in a relationship with its details, lines, colors and what it symbolizes. Once the ingenuity of the creator who drew it, and many artists tended to draw the people closest to their hearts in life, such as their mothers, wives, girlfriends, or children, and the result was very ingenious works, because love is its broad title.

The American artist James McNeill Whistler, (1834 1903), is considered one of the most prominent artists of the United States. He spent most of his time traveling between European countries, and made friends there with well-known thinkers and writers. He was not affected by it, but preferred to plan an independent style for himself, so he adopted innovative ideas in color and synthesis that were influenced by some of his contemporaries of artists, and those who came after him, and he was famous for his paintings with wavy lines and smart and rebellious talent, which are the works that made him world famous as He became one of the most distinguished painters of the nineteenth century.

Delicate and poetic

The painting “Whistler’s Mother”, or “Whistler’s Mother”, is one of the most famous works of the artist, and it belongs to his philosophy of art and life and his aesthetic vision. Romantic and realistic, as he is characterized by talent, delicate poetic, and musical sense of color tones in his paintings, and he was distinguished by not using ready-made shades, or black color directly from the tube, but rather mixing the alternative color to black, and creating a wonderful harmony, as the painting is for him a complex. Dark blue shades and derivatives, to a calm brightness with unique methods based on the beauty of color and light, and his views are professionally characterized with his interest in tenderness and elegance, and this is evident in the painting “Mother Whistler”, which he painted in 1871, as an expression and gratitude for his mother’s role in his life, The mother in general as the first lady is always in the lives of all men, using oil colors on canvas, and intended to honor the first and most important woman in the life of the artist and every human being, the mother, and the name of the painting was different, as it bears a clear challenge to the traditional nomenclature method, and simulates at the time Himself The “chromatic” titles of symphonies and musical compositions developed by composers belonging to the same art for the same art.

a story

There are several novels, stories and tales about the painting, but the most prominent of them is that Whistler had agreed with one of the beautiful models to come to his studio to paint it, but the girl missed her appointment and did not attend, so the artist thought of drawing his mother who was with him in London, where she was before She came to live in the United States, and at that time she was an elderly widow, and her children were becoming adults, and at that time the American Civil War was at the height of her borrowing, and due to those circumstances, the artist persuaded his mother, “Anna”, to come to London, where she resided with him until her death, and when he painted her, she was in The age of sixty-seven.

Romantic relationship

It was said that the main reason that prompted the artist to draw his mother, in addition to his great love for her, was that Whistler had a great romantic relationship with a French girl he met in Paris, her name was Joanna Heffernan, who was his favorite model and appeared in some of his paintings during the period he spent in Paris, but abandoned her after discovering that she was the model used by Gustave Courbet in his painting “The Origin of the World”, which brought him the wrath and indignation of many, and it was said that the reason for Whistler’s anger at Heffernan was that he was shocked by her exaggerated freedom, and perhaps he expected her to be the decency and piety of his mother. Which he loved, and found the morals he wished for in his beloved, so the artist tried to convey the character of his venerable mother at work.

a description

Whistler chose to draw his mother in a side pose, wearing a black dress, and a white headdress, while holding a white silk handkerchief in her hand, and appearing in wondrous highness, seated as a crowned queen, whose image and features emanated wisdom and intelligence with handsome and lofty, and her character indicated a wise and quiet woman of An ancient dynasty and wears clothes that express dignity, and the painting is characterized by the architectural structure of the general composition of the scene, or the picture, and the divisions are noted in the large rectangular space, and a curtain appears on the left of the painting with a soft texture, with flowers designed in a Japanese way, as Whistler’s style in the painting is characterized by muted colors And the inconsistent content was influenced by Japanese painters who used the same techniques in the art of wood carving, and the painting was characterized by the contrast of the colors of the dress with the colors of the curtain, with the diversity and richness of the artistic techniques that Whistler employed in drawing this work, and the small painting on the wall and the curtain reflects the consistency of composition, and what draws attention In this work, the beauty of the contrast paper between the dominant colors on the painting, especially black, gray and white, as the recipient notes that the features of the woman are rigid and may not express a strong emotion. He added, and it becomes clear to the viewer that Whistler succeeded in showing the strong side in his mother’s personality, “Anna”, as he views the painting as a symbol of motherhood, sympathy and kindness to parents and family values ​​in general.


The painting gained a great and global prestige and became bearing the title “Mona Lisa of the Victorian Era”, which indicates the popularity with which it was met, and the great echo among artists, critics and the public in general. In 1934, the US Post Office issued a stamp bearing the image of Whistler’s mother, accompanied by the slogan “In Memory of the Mothers of America.” A symbol of motherhood and authentic family traditions, and it was also embodied as a statue later, and it attracted a large number of artists and creators who imitated it and woven according to its example in terms of colors, background and the way the lady sits.


The painting was shown in Paris for the first time, and received a stormy reception, then the Luxembourg Museum bought it for six hundred dollars, but it was later moved to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where it remains to this day.

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