UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


Past Exhibitions

Becoming the Butterfly
Landscapes of James McNeill Whistler
January 25 - April 28

Portraits of James McNeill Whistler
April 30 - August 4

Curated by Emilie Johnson, Luzak-Lindner Graduate Fellow

Best known for his painting Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, the famous portrait of his mother, and his well-publicized legal battle with the English art critic John Ruskin, the American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) often garners as much attention for his flamboyant personality as for his artistic production. Yet a look at the artist's portraits and early landscapes demonstrates a different side of his vision.

In the first installation, Whistler's etchings and lithographs from the late 1850s, all drawn from the collection of The Fralin, expose his debt to Rembrandt, contemporary French etchers like Charles Meryon, and the work and collection of Whistler's brother-in-law, Francis Seymour Haden. Evident in these works are Whistler's emerging mastery of the medium and his evolving interest in the aesthetics of light, tone, and shade. The works on view reveal an artist during a period of almost frenzied experimentation and prolific work, the results of which would be a singular, controversial artistic vision.

Whistler's portraiture is the subject of the second installation, which considers the various ways he represented people over the course of his career. As in his landscapes, Whistler was initially influenced by Rembrandt's etched portraits, especially the dramatic light and shade the Dutch master used to represent the sitter's personality. As he gained experience with the medium in the late 1850s, his etchings of family members and fellow artists became more personal and increasingly combined truthful representation with an emphasis on the deep, dark shadows that etching could so powerfully display. His work of the 1870s shifted towards an intense focus on the play of light and atmosphere, as is also evident in his landscapes. By the 1890s, Whistler had resolved his approach to the body, treating portraits much as he did other subject matter.

The Fralin Museum of Art's programming is made possible by the generous support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Arts$, Albemarle Magazine, and Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book.

Download Landscapes exhibition label copy (pdf) >

Download Portraits exhibition label copy (pdf) >

Patrons' Reception
Thursday, January 24
5:30 - 7:30 pm
In the Museum

Final Friday Receptions
January 25, February 22, March 29 & April 26
5:30 - 7:30 pm
In the Museum

Lunchtime Talk
Landscapes of Whistler
by Emilie Johnson
Tuesday, February 12
121 pm
In the Museum

Saturday Special Tour
Portraits of Whistler by Emilie Johnson
May 4
2 - 3 pm
In the Museum

Thames Police from the Thames Set

James McNeill Whistler, American,
Thames Police from the Thames Set,
Etching and drypoint, fifth state,
5 x 9 in, 14.61 x 22.86 cm
Gift of John Barton Payne, 1920.2.74