Art for Mother’s Day

‘Whistler’s Mother’ inspires Dublin exhibition of paintings

A painting of a mother – now one of the world’s most famous such images – was shown to Irish audiences 130 years ago when it was exhibited in Dublin.

In 1884, the Dublin Painting & Sketching Club invited James McNeill Whistler to exhibit at its annual exhibition. Whistler (1834-1903) was an American painter based in London. He brought 25 paintings to show in Dublin including the grimly titled Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1 . The painting depicts a seated, elderly woman who was the artist's mother, Anna McNeill Whistler, who was living with her son in London and had, apparently, sat for the painting when a model failed to turn up for an appointment at the studio.

A member of the Club wrote to The Irish Times complaining that space for local artists' work had been "sacrificed to make room for Mr Whistler's unintelligible productions".

The painting drew only a lukewarm response from critics, as it had during an earlier showing at London’s Royal Academy. A despondent Whistler later pawned the painting which was eventually acquired, six years later, by a museum in Paris.


Now popularly known as Whistler's Mother , it hangs in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris; is considered priceless, and is one of the most famous and popular depictions of a mother in secular art.

It is widely regarded as the most famous American painting outside the US and has been described as America's Mona Lisa . It was used on a US postage stamp in 1934 "In Memory And In Honor Of The Mothers Of America".
The Dublin Painting & Sketching Club is still going strong and its 2014 exhibition features a number of paintings specially created either in homage to, or reflecting the work of, Whistler and some reproductions of the works he exhibited in 1884, including Whistler's Mother'.

Among the paintings in the show and on sale is Deep in Thought , a portrait of her mother by German-born, Dublin-based artist Ursula Klinger who says her painting involves "the showing of what is unsayable about the human condition in its fragility". The oil-on-canvas, which measures 120cm by 90cms, is priced at €3,800.

The exhibition features some 270 works, including oil and watercolour paintings, acrylics and pastels, lithographs, etchings and drawings. Subjects, in addition to mothers, include landscapes, seascapes, still life, animal, floral and life studies, botanical works, streetscapes and architectural studies. Prices start at €200.

The Dublin Painting & Sketching Club 140th Anniversary Exhibition is at the Concourse Gallery, Dú n Laoghaire , Co Dublin. Admission free, March 31st - April 13th, 10am to 5pm daily.