An exhibition as original and remarkable as a novel, focuses its museum on the artist instead. The Royal Academy tells the story of James McNeil Whistler’s model and lover, as well as her friend, travel companion and manager Joanna Hifernan, and the crucial role she played in the life and artistic career of the American painter.
Hifernan’s name is not so familiar, but anyone who has seen Whistler’s pictures will know her face, green eyes and long red Irish hair. Sometimes as the protagonist of a portrait and sometimes over and over again in a city landscape while sitting at a bar or standing in the harbor.
“Symphony in White n1”
The exhibition is titled “Symphony in White N1”, the most famous portrait of a woman, as it had a special significance in their history, as well as the Royal Academy’s late repentance. When Whistler presented the painting for the Summer Exhibition in 1862, it was rejected. The two lovers were disappointed but not surprised when the Royal Academy did not accept a portrait of a woman with loose hair and white dress standing motionless in front of a white muslin canvas. In the skin of a bear. Criticisms at the time were “very disturbing”, “lack of narrative” and “too white”. Months ago, in a letter, Hifernan wrote about the film, saying, “Some fools don’t understand this.”
The Paris Salon also rejected the portrait, but in 1863 it was praised in the Saloon des Refuse. It remains one of Whistler’s best known and favorite works ever since. One room in the exhibition is dedicated to portraits inspired by him over the decades, from white women to tributes or imitations of everything from Miley’s “Sonnambula” to Klimt’s “Hermin Gallia” to Carpels’ Symphony in White. In one of the exhibition’s beautiful halls, the three white symphonies drawn by Whistler are brought together for the first time in decades, showing the evolution of the artist’s style, as well as his active collaboration with his inspiring muse.
In “Symphony II”, her image is doubled in front of a fireplace, and her image (originally in a display case) is reflected in the mirror as a tribute to one of the Japanese fans of the time. Written by Velasquez. “Symphony III” is a dual portrait of Joanna and Emily, both dressed in white and again with white flowers and the same Japanese fan, in a cohesive composition and excellent calm image, which Whistler himself called “the purest I have ever made”.
Prone to fits of apathy. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Internet advocate. Avid travel enthusiast. Entrepreneur. Music expert.