Whistler On Show

The first Whistler Blog, and my first Blog, is not clearly defined: I shall talk about Whistler, and Life with Whistler, and art – our ideas and projects, the art above all.


Opens 16 October!

It is countdown right now to an exhibition:  An American in London: Whistler and the Thames opens on 16 October at Dulwich Picture Gallery. It’s an elegant building in the green suburbs of deepest Dulwich, reachable by train and a brisk 10 minute walk, thus  combining art, exercise and food too (very good cafe).  We – curators Patricia de Montfort and I (both from Glasgow University’s School of Culture and Creative Arts)  – were invited by the Addison Gallery of American Art years and years ago to construct a dream list of works on and around the subject of Battersea Bridge and the Thames.  We then hurriedly reduced the list after working out how many works could actually fit the galleries (at Dulwich, the Addison, and the Freer Gallery of Art, which will eventually host the show). All was on hold until we knew for sure we had the necessary loans: wonderful impressions of the etchings, delicate lithographs, powerful drawings and gorgeous paintings.  Glasgow has been particularly generous, with loans from the Hunterian and the city: our good colleagues are marvellously supportive.

Writing the catalogue was long and had its moments of joy – exciting new discoveries, creative and satisfying exposition – and its hours of slog: getting all the details right, making sure we described exactly the right work of art, polishing, checking and copy editing. I reckon the computer changes things round overnight when we aren’t looking. Then we had a little fun, fitting everything into a model of the galleries, like playing with dolls’ houses.  We selected colours for the walls from Farrow & Ball; rejecting Mole’s Breath (the mind boggles) we chose Pigeon (funny pigeons they have in London) and Lamp Room Gray- actually soft light greys.  And now, the audio guide, just finished, and talking to the Press. I don’t understand why journalists write reviews a month before the show starts, before they have seen the catalogue, never mind the actual pictures.  It’s a shame because they are likely to go with pre-conceived notions rather than looking afresh. And that’s what doing an exhibition is about: encouraging people to look closely, to find fresh inspiration and ideas, to enjoy, whatever their interest and motivation. Come artists, students, collectors, dealers, scholars, locals, come all, and LOOK!

About mfmmacdonald

I am an artist and art historian, and my research is focussed on the work and life of James McNeill Whistler. Based in the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, I am Director of the Whistler Paintings and Etchings Projects. These blogs are informal, and, I hope, interesting and even quirky discussions of individual works and events related to Whistler.
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