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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

James McNeill Whistler's legacy lives on in the work of artist Rosalie Watkins

We take a look at how James McNeill Whistler's iconic portrait of his mother inspired Fine Art Commissions' artist Rosalie Watkins: 

James McNeill Whistler was an American-born artist who divided his time between London and Paris. He is best known as a mouthpiece for 'art for art's sake' and his part in the controversial Ruskin trial of 1877.

In 1856, Whistler enlisted in Charles Gleyre's studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and a couple of years later entered into business with Alphonse Legros and Fantin-Latour in order to try and make his works as widely seen as possible. Fantin-Latour's painting, 'Homage to Delacroix' placed Whistler at the centre alongisde Manet and Baudelaire, which declared his status as a member of the avante-garde in the Parisian art world.

'Homage to Delacroix', Henri Fantin-Latour, Oil on Canvas, 1864 © RMN Grand Palais (Musee D'Orsay)/Herve Lewandowski

The psychological sensitivity of the portrait is effectively conveyed through the pared down, linear composition and further enhanced by the neutral palette. This highlights Whistler's interest in Japanese prints, including 'View of the Thames', which hangs on the wall above his mother in the painting.

'Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1' is also referred to as 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother.' This double title serves as an expression or Whistler's gradual progression from a realistic to more stylised aesthetic. 

'Whistler's painting of his mother was initially completed as part of a series of monochromatic studies, and its title (Arrangement in Grey and Black No. I) confirms his sense of detachment to it and reinforces its value as purely an exericse in aestheticism.' - Rosalie Watkins

'Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1', also called 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother', James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oil on Canvas, 1871 © RMN Grand Palais (Musee d'Orsay)/Jean Gilles Berizzi

'I was interested in the concept of painting flesh tones in a monochromatic setting and Kandis was wearing black and greys that made a dramatic visual impact against the studio wall. Whistler's muted palette adds to the sense of repose and stillness, but Kandis felt more dynamic, particularly with the less conventional leg crossed and trainers. The stronger visual contrast felt fitting when playing with the idea of interpreting Whistler's painting. Whistler also allowed the unpainted canvas to breathe through, which i have referenced with areas of the canvas left with just the initial wash showing through.' -Rosalie Watkins
'After Whistler,' Rosalie Watkins, Oil on Canvas, 2015 © Rosalie Watkins
Later in his career, Whistler dropped all narrative from his paintings and gave only musical subtitles to his work, reinforcing his belief in the importance of harmony over subject matter.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

BP Portrait Award 2016

We are delighted that Fine Art Commissions has the following artists exhibiting as part of the BP Portrait Award 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery, London. 

The exhibition runs until 4th September and admission is free. 

Dad Sculpting Me by Jamie Coreth, winner of the BP Young Artist Award


Haydn as Henry