The work was shown at the
104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872)
Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1,
best known under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother, is a
painting in oils on canvas created by the American-born painter
James McNeill Whistler (Whistler
) in 1871. The painting is 56.81 by
63.94 inches (144.3 cm × 162.4 cm), displayed in a frame of
Whistler's own design. It is exhibited in and held by the Musée
d'Orsay in Paris, having been bought by the French state in 1891. It
is one of the most famous works by an American artist outside the
United States. It has been variously described as an American icon
and a Victorian Mona Lisa.
Whistler. Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1:
Portrait of the Painter's Mother
Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the painting while living in London
with her son at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Several unverifiable stories relate to
the painting of the work; one is that Anna Whistler acted as a
replacement for another model who couldn't make the appointment. It
is also said that Whistler originally envisioned painting the model
standing up, but that his mother was too uncomfortable to pose
standing for an extended period.
associated with the painting is that Whistler called
upon his beautiful young neighbour, Helena Amelia
Lindgren (1855-1931), of number 5, Lindsey Row, to
sit in Anna's place when she grew too tired. Well
into her old age, Helena talked of secretly
modelling for Whistler, who was especially enamoured
of her hands.
According to a surviving letter of 1935 (now in the
possession of Helena's great-great-great-grandson,
David Charles Manners), Anna had first called on the
Lindgrens to ask that Helena's older sister,
Christina, be her stand-in.
However, Christina's mother, Eliza Lyle née Warlters,
forbade it. Ever a free spirit, Helena secretly
offered herself instead and modeled for the portrait
without her mother's knowledge.
The work was shown at
the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in
London (1872), after coming within a hair's breadth
of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened
the rift between Whistler and the British art world;
Arrangement was the last painting he submitted for
the Academy's approval.
of a Victorian era viewing audience would not accept
what was apparently a portrait being exhibited as an
"arrangement"; thus the explanatory title Portrait
of the Artist's Mother was appended. From this the
work acquired its popular name.
After Thomas Carlyle viewed the
painting, he agreed to sit for a similar composition, this one
titled Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2. Thus the previous
painting became Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 more or less by
Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 2
: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle
pawned the painting, which was acquired in 1891 by
Paris' Musée du Luxembourg. Whistler's works,
including this one, had attracted a number of
imitators, and numerous similarly posed and
restricted-colour palette paintings soon appeared,
particularly by American expatriate painters.
For Whistler, having one of his paintings displayed
in a major museum helped attract wealthy patrons.
In December 1884, Whistler wrote:
Just think — to go
and look at one's own picture hanging on the walls
of Luxembourg — remembering how it had been treated
in England — to be met everywhere with deference and
respect...and to know that all this is ... a
tremendous slap in the face to the Academy and the
rest! Really it is like a dream.
As a proponent of
art for art's sake, Whistler professed to be
perplexed and annoyed by the insistence of others
upon viewing his work as a "portrait."
In his 1890 book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,
Take the picture
of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an
"Arrangement in Grey and Black." Now that is what it
is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my
mother; but what can or ought the public do to care
about the identity of the portrait?
The image has been
used since the Victorian era, especially in the
United States, as an icon for motherhood, affection
for parents, and "family values" in general. For
example, in 1934 the U.S. Post office issued a stamp
engraved with a stylized image of Whistler's Mother,
accompanied by the slogan "In Memory and In Honor of
the Mothers of America." Both "Whistler's Mother"
and "Thomas Carlyle" were engraved by the English
engraver Richard Josey. In the Borough of Ashland,
Pennsylvania, an eight-foot high statue based on the
painting was erected by the Ashland Boys'
Association in 1938 during the Great Depression as a
tribute to mothers.
The image has been repeatedly appropriated for
commercial advertisements and parodies, such as
doctored images of the subject watching a
television, and sometimes accompanied by captions
such as "Whistler's Mother is Off Her Rocker."
In summing up the
painting's influence, author Martha Tedeschi has
Mother, Wood's American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci's
Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream have all
achieved something that most paintings—regardless of
their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary
value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning
almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few
works have successfully made the transition from the
elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous
venue of popular culture.
Exhibits in American museums
Whistler's Mother has been exhibited several times in the United
States. It was shown at the Atlanta Art Association in the fall of
1962, the National Gallery of Art in 1994, and the Detroit
Institute of Arts in 2004. It was exhibited at the Boston Museum of
Fine Arts from June to September 2006. From May 22
and to September 6, 2010, it was shown at the M. H. de Young
Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The painting was
exhibited at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, from
March 27 to June 22, 2015, and then at the Clark Art Institute
in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Piet Mondrian, original name
Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (born March 7, 1872, Amersfoort, Neth.—died
Feb. 1, 1944, New York, N.Y., U.S.), painter who was an
important leader in the development of modern abstract art and a
major exponent of the Dutch abstract art movement known as De
Stijl (“The Style”). In his mature paintings, Mondrian used the
simplest combinations of straight lines, right angles, primary
colours, and black, white, and gray. The resulting works possess
an extreme formal purity that embodies the artist’s spiritual
belief in a harmonious cosmos.
Early life and
Pieter was the second child of Pieter Cornelis
Mondriaan, Sr., who was an amateur draftsman and
headmaster of a Calvinist primary school in
The boy grew up in a stable yet creative
environment; his father was part of the Protestant
orthodox circle that formed around the conservative
Calvinist politician Abraham Kuyper, and his uncle,
Frits Mondriaan, belonged to the Hague school of
landscape painters. Both uncle and father gave him
guidance and instruction when, at age 14, he began
to study drawing.
determined to become a painter, but at the
insistence of his family he first obtained a degree
in education; by 1892 he was qualified to teach
drawing in secondary schools. That same year,
instead of looking for a teaching position, he took
painting lessons from a painter in a small town not
far from Winterswijk, where his family resided, and
then moved to Amsterdam to register at the
He became a member of the art society Kunstliefde
(“Art Lovers”) in Utrecht, where his first paintings
were exhibited in 1893, and in the following year he
joined the two local artist societies in Amsterdam.
During this period he continued to attend evening
courses at the academy for drawing, impressing his
professors with his self-discipline and effort. In
1897 he exhibited a second time.
Up to the turn of the century,
Mondrian’s paintings followed the prevailing trends of art in the
Netherlands: landscape and still-life subjects chosen from the
meadows and polders around Amsterdam, which he depicted using
subdued hues and picturesque lighting effects. In 1903 he visited a
friend in Brabant (Belgium), where the calm beauty and clean lines
of the landscape proved to be an important influence on him. When he
stayed on in Brabant the following year, he experienced a period of
personal and artistic discovery; by the time he returned to
Amsterdam in 1905, his art had visibly changed. The landscapes he
began to paint of the surroundings of Amsterdam, mainly of the Gein
River, show a pronounced rhythmic framework and lean more toward
compositional structure than toward the traditional picturesque
values of light and shade. This vision of harmony and rhythm,
achieved through line and colour, would develop toward abstraction
in later years, but during this period his painting still remained
more or less within the traditional boundaries of contemporary Dutch
Post-Impressionists and Luminists
In 1907 Amsterdam sponsored the Quadrennial
Exhibition, featuring such painters as Kees van
Dongen, Otto van Rees, and Jan Sluijters, who were
Post-Impressionists using pure colours in bold,
nonliteral ways. Their work was strongly influenced
by the forceful expression and use of colour in the
art of Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh, whose
work had been featured in a large exhibition in
Amsterdam in 1905. Such daring use of colour was
reflected in Mondrian’s Red Cloud, a rapidly
executed sketch from 1907. By the time he painted
Woods near Oele in 1908, new values began to appear
in his work, including a linear movement that was
somewhat reminiscent of the Norwegian painter Edvard
Munch and a colour scheme—based on hues of yellow,
orange, blue, violet, and red—that was suggestive of
the palette of contemporary German Expressionist
painters. With this vigorous painting of
considerable size, Mondrian broke away from the
national tradition of Dutch painting.
His new style was
reinforced by his acquaintance with the Dutch artist
Jan Toorop, who led the Dutch Luminist movement, an
offshoot of French Neo-Impressionism. The Luminists,
like the Neo-Impressionists, rendered light through
a series of dots or short lines of primary colours.
Mondrian concentrated on this use of
colour and limited his palette to the primary hues: he proved his
mastery of this evocation of strong, radiant sunshine in paintings
such as Windmill in Sunlight (1908), executed mainly in yellow, red,
and blue. But he moved beyond the tenets of the movement and
expressed visual concerns that would remain constant in his oeuvre.
In a painting such as The Red Tree, also dated from 1908, he
expressed his own vision of nature by creating a balance between the
contrasting hues of red and blue and between the violent movement of
the tree and the blue sky, thus producing a sense of equilibrium,
which would remain his prevailing aim in representing nature. In
1909 Mondrian’s Luminist works were exhibited in a large group show
at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, which firmly established him as
part of the Dutch avant-garde.
That year was important for
Mondrian’s career from another point of view: in May he joined the
Theosophical Society, a group that believed in a harmonious cosmos
in which spirit and matter are united. Inspired by these ideas,
Mondrian began to free the objects depicted in his paintings from
naturalistic representation: these objects became formal components
of the overall harmony of his paintings, or, in other words, the
material elements began to merge with the overall spiritual message
of his work. He concentrated on depicting large forms in nature,
such as the lighthouse in Westcapelle. In Evolution (1910–11), a
triptych of three standing human figures, the human figure and
architectural subjects look surprisingly similar, thus stressing
Mondrian’s move toward a painting grounded more in forms and visual
rhythms than in nature. In 1910 Mondrian’s Luminist works attracted
considerable attention at the St. Lucas Exhibition in Amsterdam. The
next year he submitted one of his more abstract paintings to the
Salon des Indépendants in Paris, his first bid for international
Cubist period in
Concurrent with the spiritual influence of theosophy
was Mondrian’s exposure to new visual ideas. Dutch
artists were increasingly aware of the radical work
of Paul Cézanne and of the Cubist painters. The
Dutch avant-garde began to call for new standards in
their national art that would incorporate such
trends and move beyond traditional landscape
painting. Active in avant-garde circles, Mondrian
was very influenced by these ideas. In 1911 he saw
for the first time the early Cubist works of Pablo
Picasso and Georges Braque. He was profoundly
impressed, so much so that early in 1912 he moved to
Paris, where he settled in the Montparnasse
he began to adapt the precepts of Cubism to his own
use, as evidenced in two versions of Still Life with
Gingerpot, done during the winter months of 1911–12.
In the first version, the objects are rendered as
recognizable forms from everyday life; in the
second, he transformed the same objects into
compositional structures, taking his drive toward
abstraction further than he ever had before.
Mondrian’s Cubist period lasted from 1912 to 1917.
His compositions of trees, architectural facades,
and scaffoldings during this period are proof of his
urge to reduce individual forms to a general
formula. Mondrian kept somewhat within the
boundaries of Cubism by utilizing the Cubists’
limited colour palette of ochre, brown, and gray, so
as not to distract from form, and by painting large
blocks of colour. He also observed the Cubist scheme
of composition, in which geometric divisions are
used and the painting gravitates toward a central
focus, leaving the corners of the canvas almost
untouched; the result of this scheme was his series
of oval compositions.
Mondrian. Composizione ovale con colori chiari
But in an attempt to reduce the
elements of his composition even further, Mondrian avoided curved
lines and diagonal accents and increasingly used only vertical and
horizontal lines. He went beyond Analytical Cubism’s tendency to
break individual objects into their component parts by instead
striving for a vision of reality that surpassed depicting the
individual object altogether: from 1913 onward his style began its
evolution toward total abstraction.
In the summer of 1914 Mondrian
returned to the Netherlands to visit his father, who was seriously
ill, and the outbreak of World War I prevented him from returning to
Paris. He settled at Laren, where he became acquainted with M.H.J.
Schoenmaekers, a theosophical philosopher whose works on the
symbolical meaning of lines and on the mathematical construction of
the universe had a decisive influence on Mondrian’s vision of
painting. In his work, the artist had long been moving toward seeing
the canvas as a site of spiritual awakening for the viewer; this
achieved theosophy’s goal of bringing about a state of heightened
consciousness during the experience of everyday life. With the ideas
of Schoenmaekers, he now had a distinct set of graphic rules,
closely related to his own developing formal vocabulary, through
which he could achieve this goal of merging art and life. These
discoveries pushed his Cubist style to its extreme limits,
particularly in his painting of the church at Domburg and in a new
theme, captured in a series of works known as Pier and Ocean. The
ultimate version of this theme, completed in 1917 and shown at the
Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, marks the final stage of his Cubist
style: an oval painting composed of black vertical and horizontal
line fragments on a white background.
The birth of De
Continuing these radical developments, in 1917
Mondrian and three other painters—Theo van Doesburg,
Bart van der Leck, and Vilmos Huszar—founded the art
periodical and the movement of De Stijl. The group
advocated the complete rejection of visually
perceived reality as subject matter and the
restriction of a pictorial language to its most
basic elements of the straight line, primary colours,
and the neutrals of black, white, and gray. In the
movement’s journal, De Stijl, Mondrian essentially
laid out all his visual theories; because he
contributed so extensively to the first issues of
the journal, the early style of De Stijl has become
synonymous with his own (in later years the movement
was more a reflection of the ideas of van Doesburg,
the true leader of the movement). The scope of this
new style of line and colour, for which Mondrian
coined the name neoplasticism, was to free the work
of art from representing a momentary visual
perception and from being guided by the personal
temperament of the artist. The vision that Mondrian
had moved toward for so long now seemed to be within
reach: he could now render “a true vision of
reality” in his painting, which meant deriving a
composition not from a fragment of reality but
rather from an overall abstract view of the harmony
of the universe. A painting no longer had to begin
from an abstracted view of nature; rather, a
painting could emerge out of purely abstract rules
of geometry and colour, since he found that this was
the most effective language through which to convey
his spiritual message. Mondrian’s first neoplastic
paintings were composed of rectangles in soft hues
of primary colours painted on a white background
with no use of line. His compositions were based on
colour and appear to expand over the borders of the
canvas into space beyond the picture.
Mondrian. Composition with Black, Red, Gray, Yellow,
In 1918 he reintroduced lines into his
painting, linking the colour planes to one another and to the
background by a series of black vertical and horizontal strips, thus
creating rectangles of colour or noncolour. In 1918 and 1919 he
executed a series of rhomboid compositions, subdivided into a
pattern of regular squares differentiated by thick black lines and
by soft hues of ochre, gray, and rose. Also in 1919, he created two
versions of a checkerboard composition, one in dark and one in light
colours, in which the difference of the hues transforms this common
pattern into a rhythmic sequence of squares, which play off each
other to suggest vibrancy and movement. The titles of his works
reflect this move to pure abstraction: whereas his earlier work had
titles invoking the abstracted elements of nature or architecture
depicted, his work during this period generally had titles such as
Composition with Gray, Red, Yellow, and Black (c. 1920–26) and
Diagonal Composition (1921). He returned to Paris in 1919, but he
retained his close collaboration with De Stijl. By publishing his
theories in the booklet Le Néo-plasticisme in Paris in 1920,
Mondrian began to spread his ideas throughout Europe.
Some of Mondrian’s friends organized an exhibition
of his works at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on
the occasion of his 50th birthday. It was a
retrospective progression of his paintings, tracing
the path from his beginnings in the Dutch
traditional style to his abstract paintings, firmly
establishing the artist’s pivotal role in the
international art world’s move toward abstraction.
He had reached his goal, but he did not stand still:
he continued to explore the relationship between
lines and blocks of colour, achieving an
ever-increasing purity in his paintings.
Although he did not
exhibit frequently and rarely held a one-man show,
in the early 1930s he became affiliated with Cercle
et Carré and with Abstraction-Création, both of
which were influential international groups of
artists who promoted and exhibited abstract art. In
1934 he met the American artist Harry Holtzman and
the English painter Ben Nicholson. Nicholson urged
him to publish his essay “Plastic Art and Pure
Plastic Art,” Mondrian’s first essay in English, in
the international publication Circle, of which
Nicholson was coeditor.
In this way, Mondrian’s ideas continued to gain an
even broader audience. When Mondrian decided to
leave Paris in 1938, under the shadow of the
invasion of Czechoslovakia by Adolf Hitler, he was
welcomed in London by members of the Circle group.
For two years he worked and lived in a London
suburb, but the bombardment of the city forced him
to flee to New York City in 1940, where he was
welcomed by Holtzman, the art collector Peggy
Guggenheim, art critic and museum director James
Johnson Sweeney, and other members of the American
Piet Mondrian and Pétro (Nelly) van Doesburg in
Mondrian's Paris studio, 1923
There, Mondrian’s style entered its
last phase. Throughout the 1930s, Mondrian’s work had become
increasingly severe. Inspired by his regained freedom, New York
City’s pulsating life, and the new rhythms of American music, after
1940 he broke away first from the austere patterns of black lines,
replacing them with coloured bands. Then, in place of the continuous
flow of these bands, he substituted a series of small rectangles
that coalesced into a rhythmic flow of colourful vertical and
horizontal lines. His late masterpieces—New York City I and Broadway
Boogie Woogie, exhibited in 1943–44, in his first personal
exhibition in more than two decades—express this new vivacity
through the autonomous, joyous movement of colour blocks. Buoyed by
his hope for a better future, Mondrian started his Victory Boogie
Woogie in 1942; it remained unfinished when he succumbed to
pneumonia in 1944.
Piet Mondrian. Red
The consistent development of Mondrian’s art toward complete
abstraction was an outstanding feat in the history of modern art,
and his work foreshadowed the rise of abstract art in the 1940s and
’50s. But his art goes beyond merely aesthetic considerations: his
search for harmony through his painting has an ethical significance.
Rooted in a strict puritan tradition of Dutch Calvinism and inspired
by his theosophical beliefs, he continually strove for purity during
his long career, a purity best explained by the double meaning of
the Dutch word schoon, which means both “clean” and “beautiful.”
Mondrian chose the strict and rigid language of straight line and
pure colour to produce first of all an extreme purity, and on
another level, a Utopia of superb clarity and force. When, in 1920,
Mondrian dedicated Le Néo-plasticisme to “future men,” his
dedication implied that art can be a guide to humanity, that it can
move beyond depicting the casual, arbitrary facts of everyday
appearance and substitute in its place a new, harmonious view of
Aubrey Beardsley, in full Aubrey
Vincent Beardsley (born August 21, 1872, Brighton, Sussex,
England—died March 16, 1898, Menton, France), the leading English
illustrator of the 1890s and, after Oscar Wilde, the outstanding
figure in the Aestheticism movement.
Aubrey Beardsley, 1895
Drawing was a strong interest from
early childhood, and Beardsley practiced it while earning his living
as a clerk. Beardsley’s meeting with the English artist Sir Edward
Burne-Jones in 1891 prompted him to attend evening classes at the
Westminster School of Art for a few months, his only professional
In 1893 Beardsley was commissioned
to illustrate a new edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur,
and in 1894 he was appointed art editor and illustrator of a new
quarterly, The Yellow Book. His illustrations (1894) for Oscar
Wilde’s play Salomé won him widespread notoriety. He was greatly
influenced by the elegant, curvilinear style of Art Nouveau and the
bold sense of design found in Japanese woodcuts. But what startled
his critics and the public alike was the obvious sensuality of the
women in his drawings, which usually contained an element of morbid
eroticism. This tendency became pronounced in his openly licentious
illustrations (1896) for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.
Although Beardsley was not
homosexual, he was dismissed from The Yellow Book as part of the
general revulsion against Aestheticism that followed the scandal
surrounding Wilde in 1895. He then became principal illustrator of
another new magazine, The Savoy, and he illustrated numerous books,
including in 1896 Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock. During this
period he also wrote some poems and a prose parody, Under the Hill
(1903; the original, unexpurgated version, The Story of Venus and
Tannhauser, appeared in 1907).
Delicate in health from the age of
six, when he first contracted tuberculosis, Beardsley again fell
victim to the disease when he was 17. From 1896 he was an invalid.
In 1897, after being received into the Roman Catholic church, he
went to live in France, where he died at age 25. His work has
enjoyed periodic revivals, most notably during the 1960s.
How Sir Launcelot Was Known by
Buying in bulk
gives the dealer Durand-Ruel the opportunity to purchase works
by Degas, Manet, Renoir and Sisley relatively cheaply. This year
he also mounts the first exhibitions of Impressionist work to be
held in London, though these are not a commercial success.
Sisley stays with Monet at Argenteuil.
Durand-Ruel buys three works from Degas, his first purchase of the
artist's work. He also buys twenty-four paintings from Manet for
The Square at Argenteuil
1872 This is one of four works that Sisley painted while staying with
Monet. The artist uses perspective to lead the eye into the
composition, in the background of which appears the tower of the
church of Notre-Dame.
4th Cezanne has an illegitimate son, Paul, by Hortense Fiquet
and conceals the fact from his father.
12th Durand-Ruel buys his first painting by Sisley. Two days
later he also buys his first painting by Renoir, The Pont des
Arts, for 200 francs.
12th Renoir's former model Lise Trehot marries the architect
George Briere de I'Isle.
29th The singer and collector Jean-Bap tiste Faure sells
forty-two Impressionist paintings at auction. Prices are very low,
Pulcinello attracting the highest bid at 2000 francs.
Many of the paintings are withdrawn, since they fail to reach their
1st Opening of the Salon.
Renoir's Parisian Women in Algerian Dress
is rejected. Manet's The Battle of the 'Kearsage' and the
'Alabama', on loan from Durand-Ruel (who had bought it in
January for 3000 francs), is hung. Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt
each have two works accepted. Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley do
4th The fourth exhibition of Durand-Ruel's Society of French
Artists opens in London, including work by Degas, Monet, Pissarro
18th Cezanne, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and others sign
a petition demanding another Salon des Refuses.
25th During one of his regular visits to Holland, Manet
visits the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, where he is greatly
impressed by the Vermeers.
Berthe Morisot visits Spain, then stays with her married sister Edma
In 1872 Manet painted a portrait of Morisot which was highly praised
by Mallarme. Subsequently he produced two lithographs and an etching
of her. In this lithograph Manet has emphasized the tonal contrast
between Morisot's skin and clothes.
Sisley working in Villeneuve-la-Garonne.
Pissarro moves to the rue de l'Hermitage in Pontoise, where he is
joined by Cezanne.
12th Degas and his brother set sail for America on the
Scotia. They arrive in New York on October 24th, then go on to New
2nd The fifth exhibition of Durand-Ruel's Society of French
Artists opens in London. It includes work by Degas, Manet, Pissarro,
Renoir and Sisley.
19th In a letter to Tissot from New Orleans, Degas relates
the pleasures of family life and the problems of painting family
26th Sisley gives Pissarro one of his pictures.
He also suggests organizing a dinner for Durand-Ruel (there is,
however, no record of the dinner taking place).
The Seine bursts its banks. Sisley paints his first series of 'flood
paintings' at Marly.
Paul Durand-Ruel (31 October 1831,
Paris – 5 February 1922, Paris) was a French art dealer who is
associated with the Impressionists. He was one of the first modern
art dealers who provided support to his painters with stipends and
Born Paul-Marie-Joseph Durand-Ruel in Paris, his father was a
picture dealer. In 1865 young Paul took over the family business,
which represented artists such as Corot and the Barbizon school of
French landscape painting. In 1867 he moved his gallery from 1 rue
de la Paix, Paris, to 16 rue Laffitte, with a branch at 111 rue Le
Peletier. During the 1860s and early 1870s Paul Durand-Ruel was an
important advocate and successful art dealer of the Barbizon School.
However Durand-Ruel soon established a relationship with a group of
painters who would become known as the Impressionists.
During the Franco-Prussian War, of 1870–71, Paul Durand-Ruel left
Paris and escaped to London, where he met up with a number of French
artists including Charles-François Daubigny, Claude Monet and
Camille Pissarro. In December 1870 he opened the first of ten
Annual Exhibitions of the Society of French Artists at his new
London gallery at 168 New Bond Street, under the management of
He recognized the artistic and fashionable potential of
Impressionism as early as 1870, and his first major exhibition of
their work took place at his London gallery in 1872. Eventually
Durand-Ruel had exhibitions of Impressionism and other works
(including the expatriate American painter James Abbott McNeill
Whistler who lived in London), at his Paris and London galleries. He
also brought their work to New York, doing much to establish the
popularity of Impressionist art in the United States.
During the final three decades of
the 19th century Paul Durand-Ruel became the best known art dealer
and most important commercial advocate of French Impressionism in
the world. He succeeded in establishing the market for Impressionism
in the United States as well as in Europe. Edgar Degas, Édouard
Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste
Renoir, Alfred Sisley, are among the important Impressionist artists
that Durand-Ruel helped to establish. He represented many lesser
known artists including Maxime Dethomas or Hugues Merle amongst
Regarding the Americans’
open-mindedness towards impressionism, Durand-Ruel once said, "The
American public does not laugh. It buys!"
Durand-Ruel had an intense rivalry
with Parisian art dealer Georges Petit (1856–1920).
DEGAS WRITES FROM
DE GAS BROTHERS, New Orleans
What do you say to the heading? It is the
firm's note paper. Here one speaks of nothing but cotton and
exchange. Why do you not speak to me of other things? You do not
write to me. What impression did my dance picture [exhibited by
Durand-Ruel in London] make on you and the others? Were you able to
help in selling it? And the one of the family at the races, what is
happening to that? Oh, how far from everything one is.
Excellent journey. Mew York has some charming spots. We spent
scarcely two days there. What a degree of civilization! Steamers
coming from Europe arrive like omnibuses at a station. We pass
carnages, even trains on the water. It's like England in her best
After four days on the train, we arrived in New Orleans. You cannot
imagine a wagon-lit 'sliping car' [sic]. A real dormitory. Behind
curtains one can undress down to one's vest, if one wants to, and
then climb into a proper, well-made bed. Everything is done simply
and, except for some details of taste, one says to oneself. 'It's
true, just what I needed.'
Children on a Doorstep
1872 Degas began this work three weeks after his arrival in New
Orleans, and in a letter to Tissot a (right) mentioned the
difficulties he found in persuading the children to pose. The
painting went virtually unnoticed when shown at the second
Villas with columns in different styles, painted white, in gardens
of magnolias, orange trees, banana trees, negroes in old clothes
like the junk from La Jardiniere [a junk shop in Paris] or
Marseilles, rosy white children in black arms, charabancs or
omnibuses drawn by mules, the tall funnels of the steamboats
towering at the end of the main street, that is a bit of local
colour, with a brilliant light at which my eyes complain.
Everything is beautiful in this world of the people, but one Paris
laundry girl with bare arms is worth it all for such a confirmed
Parisian as I am. The right way is to concentrate, and one can only
do that by seeing little. I am doing some family portraits, but the
big thing will be when I come back.
Rene [the artist's brother] has superb children, an excellent wife,
she scarcely seems blind, though her case is almost hopeless, and he
has a good position in business. He is happy, and it is his country,
even more perhaps than France.
You with your fantastic energy would be able to extract money from
this crowd of stockbrokers and cotton dealers. I shall make no
attempt to earn money here.
Madame Rene de Gas
1872-3 Degas painted several portraits of his family while staying in
New Orleans. His brother Rene had married his cousin, the young,
blind widow Estelle Balfour. When this work was painted she was
heavily pregnant with her fourth child, Jeanne, to whom Degas became
I hope this letter crosses one from you. Did you get my photographs?
Here I have acquired the taste for money, and once back I shall know
how to earn some, I promise you.
If you see Millais, tell him I'm very sorry to have missed him, and
tell him how much I appreciate him. Remember me to young Deschamps,
to Legros, to Whistler, who has really struck a truly personal note
in that finely balanced power of expression, a mysterious mingling
of land and water.
I have not yet written to Manet, and naturally, he has not sent me a
line. The arrival of the mail in the morning really excites me.
Nothing is more difficult than doing family portraits. To make a
cousin sit for you when she is nursing a brat of two months is quite
hard work. To get young children to pose on the steps is another job
of work which doubles the fatigues of the first. It is the art of
giving pleasure, and one must look the part.
A good family! It really is a good thing to be married, to have fine
children, to be free of the necessity of always being gallant. I
must say it's time one thought about it.
Good-bye. Write to me. I shall not leave the country before the
middle of January.
LETTER TO TISSOT, November 19th, 1872
THE IMPRESSIONIST MARKET IN BRITAIN
In the early 1870s. thanks to Durand-Ruel,
whose gallery showed works by Monet and Pissarro and later by Degas,
Renoir and Sisley, Londoners had an opportunity to see Impressionist
works before Impressionism was recognizable as a movement. But at
first Durand-Ruel appears to have made no sales to British buyers -
who seem to have felt little sympathy for the Impressionists'
paintings, despite the fact that these owed a great deal to the
landscape traditions of Turner and Constable. Nor were collectors
willing to offer much for them, even though they were prepared to
pay huge sums for paintings by living British artists (Alma-Tadema's
Roman Picture Gallery, for example, fetched -£10,000 and
Holman-Hunt's The Shadow of the Cross sold for
Probably the first British collector to purchase works by the
Impressionists was Henry Hill of Marine Parade, Brighton, to whom
Durand-Ruel sold 'five or six very fine pictures' by Degas before he
closed his New Bond Street Gallery in 1875. After Hill's death these
paintings were auctioned at Christie's in 1889 and 1892 ('pour rien',
as Durand-Rucl ruefully remarked), which constituted the first
appearance of the Impressionists in the London salerooms.
In 1881 the Greek-born stockbroker Constantine Alexander Ionides
bought Degas' The Ballet from 'Robert le
Diable' , which had been commissioned by Faure and is now in
the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. But in the following years
only a few individuals ventured to buy these 'dangerous' new
paintings, and even then only on a small scale.
The Ballet from 'Robert le Diable'
1876 This, the second version of Robert к Diable, was commissioned by
Faure in 1874. The subject, the most famous scene from an opera by
Giacomo Meyerbeer, was close to the singer's heart as the composer
was Faurc's mentor and friend. Those portrayed include: Desire Dihau,
musician (third from the left); Albert Hecht, collector and close
friend of Degas (far left with opera glasses): and Ludovic Lepic,
painter and engraver (the bearded figure in profile, second from the
Sickert bought four or five works by Degas at the Hill sale, but had
to sell them on his divorce; Arthur Kay, who had studied art in
Paris, bought one of Monet's Haystacks in 1892 for
£200; and in the same year an otherwise unknown Mr Burke of London
bought two pictures by Pissarro, followed by two Sisleys in 1893 and
a Degas in 1898.
The writer George Moore assembled a small collection of relatively
minor works by Manet, Monet and Berthc Morisot, and also persuaded
his friend Lord Grimthorpe to buy several Impressionist works.
Grimthorpe's collection was sold at Christie's on May 12th, 1906,
achieving the following amounts: Degas' Dancer with a
Tambourine, 35 guineas; Sisley's View on the Seine,
160 guineas; Monet's The Hospice Lighthouse, 195
Young Girl with a White Cravat, 245 guineas; and a
pastel by Manet, Lady with a Fan, 17 guineas. It is
interesting to note that only twelve years later, when the pictures
of another of Moore's friends, Sir William Eden, were sold at the
same auction rooms, Degas' pastel Tfie Dancer fetched 2000 guineas
and The Laundresses 2300 guineas.
Up to the time of Durand-Ruel's magnificent exhibition at the
Grafton Galleries in 1905, British collectors had bought only fifty
Impressionist paintings - whereas their American counterparts had
amassed about 200. Sales at the exhibition itself were
disappointing: of the 312 paintings on show. Durand-Ruel only sold
about ten. However, one of the buyers was Mr (later Sir) Hugh Lane,
who was anxious to acquire a collection of modern French pictures in
order to found a gallery of modern art in Dublin; and either then or
shortly afterwards he bought a remarkable group of Impressionist
paintings, including Manet's Music in the Tuileries Gardens
and Portrait of Eva Goniales, Monet's
Vetheuil, Renoir's Umbrellas and
Pissarro's Spring in Louveciennes. When Lane perished
in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, his pictures were on loan
to the National Gallery in London but had been relegated to the
cellars. There they remained until 1917, when they became the
subject of prolonged litigation between the national galleries of
England and Ireland due to the ambiguous wording of Lane's will.
Aleksandr Scriabin, in full Aleksandr
Nikolayevich Scriabin, Scriabin also spelled Skriabin, or Skryabin
(born Dec. 25, 1871 [Jan. 6, 1872, New Style], Moscow, Russia—died
April 14 [April 27], 1915, Moscow), Russian composer of piano and
orchestral music noted for its unusual harmonies through which the
composer sought to explore musical symbolism.
Scriabin was trained as a soldier
at the Moscow Cadet School from 1882 to 1889 but studied music at
the same time and took piano lessons. In 1888 he entered the Moscow
Conservatory, where he studied the piano with V.I. Safonov and
composition with Sergey Taneyev and Anton Arensky. By 1892, when he
graduated from the conservatory, he had composed the piano pieces
that constitute his opuses 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7. In 1897 he married the
pianist Vera Isakovich and from 1898 until 1903 taught at the Moscow
He then devoted himself entirely to composition and in
1904 settled in Switzerland. After 1900 he was much preoccupied with
mystical philosophy, and his Symphony No. 1, composed in that year,
has a choral finale, to his own words, glorifying art as a form of
religion. In Switzerland he completed his Symphony No. 3, first
performed under Arthur Nikisch in Paris in 1905. The literary
“program” of this work, devised by Tatiana Schloezer, with whom he
had formed a relationship after abandoning his wife, was said to
represent “the evolution of the human spirit from pantheism to unity
with the universe.” Theosophical ideas similarly provided the basis
of the orchestral Poem of Ecstasy (1908) and Prometheus (1911),
which called for the projection of colours onto a screen during the
From 1906 to 1907 Scriabin toured
the United States, where he gave concerts with Safonov and the
conductor Modest Altschuler, and in 1908 he frequented theosophical
circles in Brussels. In 1909 he was encouraged by the conductor
Serge Koussevitzky, who both performed and published his works, to
return to Russia. By then he was no longer thinking in terms of
music alone; he was looking forward to an all-embracing “Mystery.”
This work was planned to open with a “liturgical act” in which
music, poetry, dancing, colours, and scents were to unite to induce
in the worshipers a “supreme, final ecstasy.” He wrote the poem of
the “Preliminary Action” of the “Mystery” but left only sketches for
Scriabin’s reputation stems from
his grandiose symphonies and his sensitive, exquisitely polished
piano music. His piano works include 10 sonatas (1892–1913), an
early concerto, and many preludes and other short pieces. Although
Scriabin was an idolater of Frédéric Chopin in his youth, he early
developed a personal style. As his thought became more and more
mystical, egocentric, and ingrown, his harmonic style became ever
less generally intelligible. Meaningful analysis of his work only
began appearing in the 1960s, and yet his music had always attracted
a devoted following among modernists.
Williams, (born October 12, 1872, Down Ampney,
Gloucestershire, England—died August 26, 1958, London,
England), English composer in the first half of the 20th
century, founder of the nationalist movement in English
studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in London
at the Royal College of Music under two major
figures of the late 19th-century renaissance of
English music, Sir Charles Stanford and Sir Hubert
Parry. In 1897–98 he studied in Berlin under the
noted composer Max Bruch and in 1909 in Paris under
Maurice Ravel. About 1903 he began to collect folk
songs, and in 1904–06 he was musical editor of The
English Hymnal, for which he wrote his celebrated
“Sine Nomine” (“For All the Saints”). After
artillery service in World War I, he became
professor of composition at the Royal College of
His studies of
English folk song and his interest in English music
of the Tudor period fertilized his talent, enabling
him to incorporate modal elements (i.e., based on
folk song and medieval scales) and rhythmic freedom
into a musical style at once highly personal and
compositions include orchestral, stage, chamber, and
vocal works. His three Norfolk Rhapsodies (numbers 2
and 3 later withdrawn), notably the first in E minor
(first performed, 1906), were the first works to
show his assimilation of folk song contours into a
distinctive melodic and harmonic style.
His nine symphonies cover a
vast expressive range. Especially popular are the second, A
London Symphony (1914; rewritten 1915; rev. 1918, 1920,
1934), and the seventh, Sinfonia Antartica (1953), an
adaptation of his music for the film Scott of the Antarctic
(1949). Other orchestral works include the Fantasia on a
Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910); concerti for piano (later
arranged for two pianos and orchestra), oboe, and tuba; and
the Romance for harmonica and orchestra (1952).
Of his stage works, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1951) and Job
(1931), a masque for dancing, reflect his serious, mystical
side. Hugh the Drover (1924), a ballad opera, stems from his
folk song interest. Riders to the Sea (1937) is a poignant
setting of John Millington Synge’s play.
He wrote many songs of
great beauty, including On Wenlock Edge (1909), set
to poems of A.E. Housman and consisting of a cycle
for tenor, string quartet, and piano (later arranged
for tenor and orchestra) and Five Mystical Songs
(1911), set to poems of George Herbert.
Particularly notable among his choral works are the
Mass in G Minor, the cantatas Toward the Unknown
Region (1907) and Dona Nobis Pacem (1936; Grant Us
Peace), and the oratorio Sancta Civitas (1926; The
Holy City). He also wrote many part-songs, as well
as hymn and folk song settings.
broke the ties with continental Europe that for two
centuries through George Frideric Handel, Felix
Mendelssohn, and lesser German composers had made
Britain virtually a musical province of Germany.
Although his predecessors in the English musical
renascence, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Hubert Parry, and
Sir Charles Stanford, remained within the
Continental tradition, Vaughan Williams, like such
nationalist composers as the Russian Modest
Mussorgsky, the Czech Bedřich Smetana, and the
Spanish Manuel de Falla, turned to folk song as a
wellspring of native musical style.