Bo Bartlett

Feb 14

…and speaking of Whistler, his 1871 painting ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1’, known as ‘Whistler’s Mother’ was one of the most influential paintings of it’s time. Oriental influences were absorbed and rehashed through Whistler’s western sensibility. Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg’s 1837 painting ‘Woman at a Mirror’ along with Whistler’s tonal/minimal paintings, paved the way for the work of one of the greatest (and most under-appreciated) artists of the 19th century, Danish painter, Vilhelm Hammershoi. Hammershoi reveals these influences in an 1886 version of ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Mother’. Hammershoi went on to paint poignant, mysterious portraits of the back of his wife’s head. These paintings, which are as much portraits of rooms and light, as they are portraits of a person, place Hammershoi within the ‘Mystical Tradition’. It is known that Rainer Maria Rilke was a huge fan of Hammershoi. Rilke took reproductions of Hammershoi paintings to Paris and introduced them to the young aspiring Balthus. Balthus’ mother had a long term relationship with Rilke. What a wonderful world of art and motherhood and influences. Today, ‘Whistler’s Mother’ lives in the Musee d’Orsay and there, she is the most famous work by an American artist. 

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