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Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship: Secrets of an American Masterpiece Hardcover – October 1, 2003

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Hardcover, October 1, 2003
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803248113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803248113
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,062,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Walden restored Whistler's painting Arrangement in Grey and Black, and she's got some issues with the artist. Not with his life, nor with the women who managed it, including his mother, nor with his grand philosophizing about art, which Walden dismisses as "confused and confusing." No, Walden is chagrined that in his greatest painting, Whistler botched the technique. He ground the grains in the black pigments too finely and applied the paint too thinly. Result: Whistler's aged mother is aging far faster than normal, and the painting will never be restored to its original condition. Walden's lament, however, is more commiserative than pejorative, for in addition to recounting the painting's physical problems, she tells us how Whistler came to paint it--he conceived it fairly spontaneously, using his mom as a substitute when a model failed to show up. A fascinating, easily read account of an icon. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"A fascinating, easily read account of an icon."—Booklist

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The artist James McNeil Whistler was an American, but he spent his professional life in Europe, especially London, and had no homesickness for his homeland. Asked how he came to be born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he replied, "I wanted to be near my mother." And it is his mother that his countrymen remember him for. "Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother" is one of the most famous paintings in the world, better known as "Whistler's Mother." Sarah Walden, a leading picture restorer, got the job of restoring it a few years ago. She researched the work extensively before she took on the intimidating task of renewing its surface. In _Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship_ (University of Nebraska Press), Walden has described the restoration process in her book's final chapter, but has also given a history of the picture and its changes in meaning. It is a book full of surprises concerning just how the world looks at a masterpiece.
Whistler's mother was sixty-seven when he came to paint her; she was a stand-in when the model of the day did not show, one day in 1871. Walden is firmly of the opinion that the portrait is Whistler's best work. Whistler, a dandy who liked attention and was profuse with his (sometimes foundationless) philosophy of art was reticent about this particular painting. When someone congratulated him on it, he said only, "One does like to make one's mummy just as nice as possible." He lived in England for thirty years, but got little recognition from the English. Even the portrait of his mother was not appreciated. It was cool, gray, and empty, and it puzzled London critics. It was a sensation, however, in Paris.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
While revealing many interesting facts about Whistler's life and the portrait itself, Walden shares with the reader his inspirations, insecurities, and values, but none of these reveals a tragic or heroic character. She reveals him as simply a passionate artist. The book is efficiently organized according to topics such as "The Moment of Creation," "The Portrait as Patriotism," and "Restoration: the Elusive Original," and I admit to jumping to sections in which I was most interested. I was not glued to the pages in the way I would be to a narrative, but I found the information a good supplement to my enjoyment of Whistler's paintings. Certainly any reader with an appreciation for Whistler or a broader interest in late 19th century art would enjoy this book.
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