Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1862
James McNeill Whistler
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Harris Whittemore Collection
oil on canvas
This audacious painting by the American-born expatriate caused an uproar when it was first exhibited in Paris in 1863. Though it depicts James McNeill Whistler’s mistress, Joanna Hiffernan, it was the radical composition and lack of narrative content that disturbed audiences. The artist explained that the painting has no subject in the conventional sense: it is simply a painting of a model in a studio. He turned to musical terminology for its title to emphasize the painting’s exploration of color and composition.