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Whistler’s Mother

Many have heard of the painting that hangs in the Louvre in Paris commonly known as “Whistler’s mother.” A model failed to show up one day, and the elderly lady patiently sat while her son worked on the canvas. When the painting was shown at the Royal Academy, Whistler simply titled it an “Arrangement in Grey and Black.”

James Whistler was known for his piercing wit and fiery personality. He complained that people didn’t appreciate his paintings and once sued a critic who had accused the artist of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” He constantly criticized the British, sometimes dressed outlandishly, quarreled frequently and even mistreated his subjects. “You can’t call that a great work of art,” one man protested after sitting for a portrait. “Perhaps not,” Whistler replied, “But then you can’t call yourself a great work of nature.”

Quoted in G. Collins, The Magnificent Mind, p. 95.