The London home of the American born artist James McNeill Whistler has been put up for sale, sporting a £30m price tag. Located at 96 Cheyne Walk and overlooking the Thames river, it housed the aesthetes’ studio where he painted the iconic portrait of his mother, as well as many of his Nocturne paintings.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery is currently mounting a major exhibition of Whistler’s work. The exhibition includes 15 of Whistler’s paintings of Chelsea and the Thames River, along with 35 prints, ten rarely-seen drawings, watercolours, and pastels and will culminate in several of his famous Nocturnes including Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge (1872/1873) , one of the artist’s most critically acclaimed and widely-known paintings of Battersea Bridge, and a study of Black and Gold: The Fire Wheel(1893). Further exhibition highlights will include earlier works such as Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge, (1859-1863) and Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses (c. 1864). A man about town, referred to by some as a ‘dandy’, Whistler led a colourful life in London and his work raised controversy with John Ruskin, in 1877, accusing him of ‘flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face’. Whistler subsequently sued Ruskin winning pitiful damages but a moral victory against the critic. Whistler spent much of the later years of his life in the capital, where he died in 1903 and was buried in St Nicholas’s Church, Chiswick.
This exhibition will feature portraits of Whistler and his patrons, bringing to life the personalities involved in this prolific period in the artist’s career. Portraits including The Artist’s Studio (1865) and Symphony in White No. 2: The Little White Girl (1864), as well as a lesser-known etching self-portrait, Whistler with a Hat (1859), will be on display. The exhibition will be complemented by historical photographs hung throughout the exhibition which will help to place Whistler’s work into the social context of the Chelsea neighbourhood where he lived and worked whilst bringing to life the stories behind some of the famous works. Fourteen etchings from the ‘Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes of the Thames, 1871’ will be on display, including Rotherhithe (1860), an etching closely related to Wapping (1860-64), the innovative oil painting of the same year which features Whistler’s mistress ‘Jo’, will also be in the show. The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Margaret F. MacDonald, Professor Emerita and Honorary Professorial Research Fellow and Dr. Patricia de Montfort, Lecturer, School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow. Dr. Margaret F. MacDonald was co-curator of Tate’s major 1994 exhibition: ‘James McNeill Whistler’.
“An American in London: Whistler and the Thames”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 12 January 2014