1. James Abbott McNeill Whistler
(1834-1903)

La Vieille aux Loques

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Whistler, La Vieille aux Loques

La Vieille aux Loques

Etching, 1858, 209 x 148 mm., Kennedy 21 iii/iii, Mansfield 21 iii/iii, from The French Set. Fine, sharp impression on laid japan paper with good margins; slight paper toning in the margins. The original title to The French Set was Douze Eaux-Fortes d'apr├Ęs Nature and the etchings in it strongly reveal Whistler's espousal of the naturalist movement in art, avoiding literary evocation, story telling, symbolism and elevated subject matter, and focusing on things observed in the ordinary course of life and travel. But these etching were no mere snapshots and the choice of realistic portrayal of realistic subject matter by no means excluded artistic interpretation. The work here proceeds from light to dark as it moves from the outer edges of the plate to the center and the white bonnet of the old woman stands as the central highlight in the darkest portion of the plate. This was the first of Whistler's profile portraits of women, to be succeeded by many others, and it has remained one of his most popular etchings as well as the inspiration for works by many other etchers.