Arts Everyday Living: Happy Birthday Whistler—Portrait of Jo, A Symphony in White

James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, Number 1: The White Girl, 1861-1863, 1872, oil on canvas, Harris Whittemore Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Today, July 11, 2023, American master James McNeill Whistler was born 189 years ago in 1834. Along with being prodigiously talented, Whistler was always controversial, defying the norms of the contemporary art world with works like Symphony in White, Number 1: The White Girl above.

She may not be as famous as Whistler’s mother, but the model Jo Hiffernan, once the painter’s mistress, has been causing visitors to pause and contemplate her irresistible beauty (especially the auburn tresses) since 1943. Yet, upon its debut at the Salon des Refuses in Paris (having been rejected by the establishment Salon), Whistler’s work was criticized for a variety of reasons such as the emphasis on the color white, the use of heavy brushwork, and what was then considered the puzzling appearance of the subject.

Would you like to google more “symphonies in white?”

Symphony in White, Number 2: the Little White Girl, 1864-1865, Tate Britain, London, UK

Symphony in White, Number 3, 1865-1867, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, UK



In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.


, , , ,