Sunday, July 7, 2013

Whistler's Neighborhood: Impressions of a Changing London

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

When: through September 8, 2013

This small exhibit is on the lower lever of the Freer, so walk down the staircase to the left of the Mall entrance, rather than entering the museum proper, to find it.

Whistler lived in Chelsea from 1863 - 1903, and, beginning in the 1880s, he made sketches of the daily activities of his neighbors out and about in the street and at the shops.  These were personal observations, not meant as social commentary, although they did feature the poorer elements of society.  The "change" in the title refers to the Chelsea Embankment project, which not only cleaned up the river (thereby eliminating the terrible stench), but also forced the poor away from the waterfront, to make way for the mansions of the upper classes.  The way of life Whistler's work portrays was vanishing.

The sketches are mostly pen and ink, which is not my favorite style, although a few do have bits of color, like the painting above.  Not the usual sort of fare one sees at the Freer, and without much vibrancy, not a show I especially liked.

Verdict: Worth a look if you're in the neighborhood, otherwise, not a must-see.

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