4th of July = Fireworks. . . or not?? Art & Life (Whistler)

Cher’s Famous Art

04 July 2020

“Falling Rockets: Nocturne in Black & Gold”

James McNeill Whistler, American, Realist, c. 1875

To celebrate the fireworks that we may NOT be seeing this 4th of July due to COVID-19, I’m sharing an oil painting of a fireworks display on a foggy night in London by a well-known American artist, Whistler.  I enjoy this painting because it reminds me the night sky just as the fireworks are dissolving into the atmosphere–the scene that is nearly impossible to photograph; I’ve tried! 

“Falling Rockets” Whistler

Whistler is more commonly known for the iconic painting of his mother “The Artist’s Mother: Arrangement in Grey & Black # 1” at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. When I saw it in person, I was impressed by the beautiful little white flowers in the drapery on the left side—impossible to see in photographs.  (Little known fact: “Whistler’s Mother” is the most famous work by an American artist on display outside of the United States!). 

Learn more on my Mother’s Day 2021 post highlighting this infamous painting.

“The Artist’s Mother” by Whistler

Since I’m on a role with Whistler, and to provide a bit of cultural literacy for us all, I’m diverging off of fireworks to share a sample of the varied styles of Whistler in this Day of Independence by adding “Lady in Pink & Grey” (nee Lady Meux).  It is a style we don’t often associate with Whistler.  When I saw this life-size (6’4” x 3’1”) oil painting at the Frick Museum in NYC, the pink satin on her dress was so real looking that I had all I could do to resist touching it!  (Being a good art patron, I of course did resist!  It had nothing to do with the tough and crabby looking museum guard glaring at me from her post!)  


James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, 1881-1882 oil on canvas 76 1/4 in. x 36 5/8 in.

TRAVEL TIP: And when travel loosens up, for an idea for state-side travelers, visit Washington D.C. and check out Whistler’s Peacock Room at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art for his magnificent display of Asian art and his “Peacock…Princess.” 

Who would have thought that Whistler’s art stretched so far beyond the iconic, stiff, gray painting of his stoic mother!

Peacock Princess by Whistler, Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art

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