When James McNeill Whistler’s portrait of his mother, Anna Matilda McNeill Whistler, was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1881, few could have predicted that it would one day be an iconic American painting. To celebrate this exceptional loan to the museum—the first time in 142 years that the painting will be seen in this city—the exhibition will explore the circumstances surrounding the portrait’s creation and its legacy in Philadelphia.
Just as Whistler was inspired by Rembrandt’s etchings of his own mother, so too were local artists spurred by Whistler and their own ambitions to make depictions of their mothers. Some would respond directly to Whistler’s Mother while others took an entirely different approach. The installation will bring Whistler’s iconic portrait into dialogue with paintings, drawings, and etchings by artists associated with Philadelphia—Cecilia Beaux, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Dox Thrash, Alice Neel, Sidney Goodman, and others—and invite consideration of the individual women represented and the relationship between artist and sitter; child and parent.
The Artist’s Mother: Whistler and Philadelphia is generously supported by the Laura and William C. Buck Endowment for Exhibitions and other generous donors.
Jennifer A. Thompson, Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection