My Mother
By James McNeill Whistler

My Mother
By James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
In the Luxembourg, Paris

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, of Irish parentage. His father, Major George Whistler (who had married an American lady), afterwards went to Russia as an engineer, and his son spent his childhood there, returning to America with his mother at his father's death. He was educated at the Military School at West Point, but he had no liking for a soldier's career, and in 1856 he started his art studies in Paris. His first artistic success was gained with the "Femme Blanche," which was rejected for the Salon, but created a sensation in Art circles when shown in the Salon des Refuses. Later he came to London and took up his abode in Chelsea, which he made the centre of his activities until his death.

Whistler the man was no less remarkable than Whistler the artist, and in combination the two made up a personality which was remarkable though not lovable. He was a great egoist and was impatient of anything that savoured of criticism or of contradiction of his own ideas. When Ruskin, the champion of misunderstood artists, condemned his work, he brought an action against him for libel, so incensed was he that anybody should venture to criticise him strongly.

Out of all his eccentricities, however, his genius emerges and will redeem his memory from all ungraciousness. His exquisite style combines the softness and "atmosphere" of the French Impressionists, the tone values of Velazquez, and the bright harmony of the Japanese, with his own individuality. A delicate monotony of colours was his forte, and with soft colours he softened the hardness of realism to the impalpable visions such as nature reveals through the mists before the sun finishes playing upon them ere chasing them away. Thus his portraits, while convincingly real, are rather phantoms revealing the spirit of the sitters than material shapes picturing their bodies.

From the book "Famous Paintings" printed in 1913.

Large files of this public domain print are available at Stock Photos at Songs of Praise
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Online "Name the Painting"

Paintings by Whistler
at Olga's Place

Biography of Whistler
at Olga's Place

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
biography at Web Museum

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
from the ArtChive

James McNeill Whistler
links at Art Cyclopedia

at Wikipedia

from the Worldwide Art Gallery

Famous Paintings in this Series

M. Bompard

A Prayer to the Madonna


The Madonna and Child

Sir Edward Coley

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid

Sir Edward Coley

The Mill

Jean Charles Cazin


John Constable

Boat-Building Near
Flatford Mill

John Crome

On the Skirts of the Forest

Pascal Adolphe Jean

The Blessed Bread

Theophile Emanuel Duverger


C.W. Furse

Diana of the Uplands

W.H. Gore


Peter Graham

A Rainy Day

Jean Baptiste Greuze

The Listening Girl

Sir James Guthrie

A Highland Funeral

Frans Hals

A Man With a Glove
In His Hand

Hans Holbein the Younger

The Ambassadors

Henry Holiday

Dante and Beatrice

Sir Edwin Landseer


Sir Edwin Landseer

A Naughty Child

H.H. La Thangue

Mowing Bracken

Sir Thomas Lawrence

Caroline of Brunswick,
Queen of George IV.

G.D. Leslie

Sun and Moon Flowers

J. Seymour Lucas


Jean Louis Ernest

The Print Collector

Jean Francois Millet

The Angelus

Jean Francois Millet

Going to Work

Sir William Quiller

The Farmer's Daughter

Ralph Peacock



His Own Portrait

Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Infant Samuel

Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Strawberry Girl

George Romney

The Parson's Daughter

W. Dendy Sadler

A Good Story

W. Dendy Sadler


William Small

The Last Match

J.M. Swan

On the Alert,
Lioness and Cubs

J.M.W. Turner

Peace: Burial at Sea of the
Body of Sir David Wilkie

J.M.W. Turner

Rain Steam and Speed
The Great Western Railway


Portrait of a Spanish Lady
"La Femme a L'Eventail"

Frederick Walker

The Vagrants

George Frederick Watts


James McNeill Whistler

My Mother

Anders Zorn

A Fisherman

Index Page
Famous Paintings