Portrait Essay

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, but spent only his early childhood and a few years in his 20s in America.Given the artist’s expatriate status, and the fact that the painting has resided in France since 1891, it is perhaps surprising that Arrangement in Gray and Black No.Is Portrait of a Lady a feminist book in any way or ultimately a conservative novel? Is she ultimately a villain, or does she have qualities that enable the reader to sympathize with her behavior?

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This medium allowed the artist to achieve the delicate gradations of light and dark in his sitter’s face, framed in a lace cap, the mottled surface of the gray wall, and the patterned fabric (possibly a kimono) hanging on the left.

The subtlety in Whistler’s tones was not always appreciated, however.

Hanging on the museum wall, she towers over all but the tallest museum-goers.

Her ramrod posture and steady gaze, at once severe and serene, amplify the painting’s already-impressive physical presence.

Even today, the room in which Whistler posed his mother is striking in its bareness—and its geometric regularity.

It is all straight lines and right angles: striped rug, box-shaped footrest, dark wood paneling, and framed prints (of Whistler’s own etchings) on the walls.

Although Whistler’s personal style drew upon an eclectic range of European and Asian traditions, the portrait of his mother tethers him to his American roots.

The purchase of his Arrangement by the French government was a point of national pride—this was the first painting by an American to enter France’s national collection.

How does Isabel respond to each of them, and why does she respond to them as she does?

Touchett, what does the novel's position seem to be with regard to feminism? Where does she seem to fit on the spectrum between personal independence and social conformity?


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