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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

W is for Whistler's Wild Woman! - VBR

Everyone knows this woman -
It's Whistler's Mommy! Or more accurately
Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1
Portrait of the Artist's Mother

This is considered one of the most famous works by an American artist, and a little bit of trivia - the etching on the wall is a copy of Whistler's work Black Lion Wharf.

BUT!! Whistler also liked to paint portraits of other women. His sister in law, Ethel Birnie Philip, was his model for many paintings.  Whistler's nickname for Ethel was Bunny. This portrait is titled
Red and Black, The Fan
Whistler called the piece 'The Red Bunnie'.

and finally,
here is Whistler's wild woman-
and my favorite Whistler portrait -

Harmony in Pink and Grey,
Portrait of Lady Meux

Valorie Susie Langdon, a butcher's daughter from Devon, was an actress, or by some accounts a lady of the evening, depending on who was asked. At 31 she married Sir Henry Meux, and became Lady Meux. 
Snubbed by society and her inlaws, Lady Meux lived life on her own terms.  She drove herself in a carriage drawn by zebras when in London.  She attended all of the opening nights of theatre and opera. And, rumor had it she also went in disguise to the boxing matches.
Lady Meux sat for 3 portraits by Whistler.  This is the first, a second, showing the subject in black, with furs and jewels as befit her station as Lady Meux.  The third painting was destroyed after she and Whistler had a falling out over his insistance that the painting needed to be reworked again.  Words were exchanged. The painting was destroyed and she never sat for him again.
So take that Jimmy Whistler!

I love to read about painters, their subjects and the history behind famous works of art .  Knowing the back stories to paintings makes them more enjoyable to view! 

Join us at Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday by clicking on the link at the right.



  1. Valorie sounds like someone I would like to know!


  2. Great "W" post! I know very little about Whistler, so thanks for sharing those interesting facts.

  3. wonderful post for 'W' ~ very informative and creative ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

  4. Great art history lesson.(And if I had a cat, I'd name her Lady Meux.)Neat W post.

  5. I also like reading about the behind the scene of artworks and their creative process or muse. you'll always find something as in this case Whistler's wild woman.

    great W post. have a sweet day.

  6. What a wonderfully educational post! I love that story of Whistler and Lady Meux.

  7. Great 'W' reading. Sorry to say that I have never heard of Whistler, got to read up on it. Thank you!

    Saying 'hello' via Alphabe- Thursday - mine for letter 'W' @ ImagesByCW is about Wales U.K.

  8. This is just an excellent "W" post! I have always loved Whistler's work, and your words have really made him come alive!

  9. Thanks for doing the research! I find the portrait of his mother much more painterly than the others:)

  10. Lady Meux is quite lovely! Interesting about the zebras; she must have had a lot of moxie to do such a thing!!
    Clever of Whistler to include his etching in his "mom painting"!!
    Love the background info you provided!

  11. Wow. What a wonderland of information!

    I loved this post!

    I've always admired Whistler's work. I felt like I learned about him on a different level after reading this.

    Really, really a wonderfully wow post!

    Thanks for sharing it.