Whistler and his Circle: Etchings from the Permanent Collection

May 22, 2016 – August 14, 2016

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) was an international artist, one of the 19th century’s true masters. He was born in America, spent his childhood in Russia and young adulthood in Paris, and settled into a professional life in London. His early paintings and prints were rooted in European Realism of the past and present, and his etching style in particular drew inspiration from seventeenth-century Dutch artists such as Rembrandt. Whistler soon turned away from Realism toward a more expressive style, creating paintings, pastels, and prints of people and landscapes drawn with poetic suggestiveness rather than visual accuracy. The sketchy quality of his mature work was sometimes seen in a negative light, with critics accusing him of showing unfinished work. The lack of finish and detail in his work had much in common with the art of the French Impressionists, who were then coming into prominence.

Whistler had a full social and artistic life interacting with an extensive community of artists. He regularly worked alongside other artists when sketching out of doors, or when printing proofs of his etchings in the studio. This exhibition focuses on five of the artists who worked alongside him in this way: Otto Bacher, Frank Duveneck, Francis Seymour Haden, Alphonse Legros, and Mortimer Menpes, as well as other artists who knew Whistler personally, including Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and James Tissot. All of the prints in the exhibition were created during Whistler’s lifetime, giving the viewer a unique window into the artistic world surrounding this remarkable artist.