‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1’ is what it is: ‘Whistler’s Mother’––and motherhood writ large

By Tom Siebert

“Whistler’s Mother” is a colloquialism for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, a painting in oils on canvas created by American-born artist James McNeil Whistler in 1871. The work was lukewarmly received, forcing the artist to pawn the painting. But it was eventually acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and later acclaimed worldwide as a masterpiece. However, the artist always insisted that the painting should be viewed not as an affectionate portrait but as a groundbreaking configuration of earth-tone colors. “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?” he asked. My answer across the ages came after seeing the painting in person at The Art Institute of Chicago, the first time the American icon had been displayed in the U.S. since 1954. Whistler’s magnum opus is more about motherhood than Mother Earth.

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About Tom Siebert

Tom Siebert received a B.S. in journalism from the University of Illinois and has worked as a staff writer for newspapers in California, Florida, and Illinois. Tom reported general news, interviewed entertainment figures, and covered elected office holders––including four presidents and a pope. More significantly, he profiled human suffering in the form of a homeless man dying of AIDS, a college cheerleader battling Hodgkin's disease, and a senior couple living the long goodbye of Alzheimer's. He currently contributes to the Chicago Tribune, Aurora Beacon-News, Elgin Courier-News, Naperville Sun, and Patch community news sites. Tom also worked as a copy editor and proofreader for Tyndale House, a Christian publisher based in the Chicago suburbs. He is presently self-employed as an editor of Christian books. In addition, Tom serves as community relations director for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois. He also served on the leadership team for the Celebrate Recovery ministry at Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego. And he now serves as a group leader at Community Christian Church in Naperville. Tom may be contacted at tmsiebert@gmail.com or (816) 344-7815.
This entry was posted in Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Tom Siebert, Whistler's Mother and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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