Mama Muse

It’s almost Mother’s Day, and Museworthy would like to offer warm Mother’s Day wishes to all my readers’ Moms, my readers who are Moms, and my readers who are soon-to-be Moms (yay, Steph!!) Most of all, I want to wish my mother a happy, happy Mother’s Day. Great lady, great person . . . the BEST! I’m lucky to have her. xoxo

We have art to commemorate the occasion, courtesy of James McNeill Whistler. The American painter was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, and as the “black sheep” of the Whistler family, the rebellious James was expelled from West Point. He left the United States and settled in Europe where he painted and lived the life of an American expatriate. He became good friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, and had close acquaintances with Manet and Degas. Whistler was also an accomplished engraver and produced many etchings, lithographs, and drypoints.

Here is an 1860 Whistler etching of his model and lover Joanna Hiffernan:

As usual with artist/model circles and their romantic entanglements, drama ensued when Whistler discovered that Joanna had posed for Gustave Courbet’s notorious erotic painting L’Origine du Monde. Needless to say, both Whistler’s friendship with Courbet and his relationship with Joanna were effectively over.

But Mother’s Day is the theme, and I’m sure everyone knows which image will shortly be appearing in this post. It is Whistler’s famous 1871 painting of his mother, Anna MacNeill Whistler. By the 1860s, Anna was widowed, her children were all grown, and the Civil War was tearing through the United States. Rather than live elderly and alone in war-ravaged America, Anna accepted James’ invitation to come and live with him in London. At first, the straitlaced, matronly Anna was taken aback by her son’s artsy, informal bohemian lifestyle. But she soon got used to it, and, at the age of 67, proudly sat for her artist son, for what would become one of the most recognizable works of art. Whistler’s friend Edgar Degas was among the many admirers of this famous portrait.

Although the real title of the painting is Arrangement in Gray and Black: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, is has become familiarly known simply as “Whistler’s Mother”. It hangs today in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris:

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!!!!!

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