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Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan at the Royal Academy from 26 February to 22 May 2022

The Royal Academy’s Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan will be the first exhibition to examine the important role played by the Irish-born model Joanna Hiffernan in establishing the reputation of the American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) as one of the most influential artists of the late 19th century.

The exhibition consists of over 70 works, and brings together nearly all of Whistler’s depictions of Hiffernan, and will include paintings, prints, drawings, and related art works and ephemera. Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan explores the pair’s professional and personal relationship over more than 20 years and examine how the artwork resulting from their collaboration has influenced and resonated with artists into the 20th century.

The exhibition will be arranged thematically in six sections. London in the 1860s will feature depictions of London including Whistler’s Wapping, 1860-64 and other paintings from the 1850s and 1860s by British artists that portray the theme of the woman in white in various guises, including Dante Gabrielle Rosetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domine! [The Annunciation], 1849-50.

The following section, Symphonies in White, will be devoted to the artistic collaboration between Whistler and Hiffernan in the 1860s. A key highlight will be Whistler’s three Symphony in White paintings that are rarely shown together: Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl, 1862, Symphony in White, No.II: The Little White Girl, 1864, and Symphony in White, No. III, 1865-67.

Whistler and Hiffernan: The Prints will demonstrate Whistler’s skills as a printmaker, especially in his images of Hiffernan. The following section will examine the influence of Japonisme on Whistler, in works such as his Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, 1864, which shows Hiffernan wearing a kimono and surrounded with Asian objects from Whistler’s collection.

Whistler and Courbet presents the works of Gustave Courbet, who painted Hiffernan when she and Whistler joined Courbet in 1865 in Trouville, Normandy.

Whistler and Hiffernan’s legacy is revealed through the final section entitled Women in White, which will include paintings from the late 1860s until just after the turn of the century by a group of international artists, many of whom knew Whistler and were directly influenced by his treatment of the theme. Highlights will include John Everett Millais’ The Somnambulist, 1871, Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Hermine Gallia, 1904 and Andrée Karpelés’ Symphonie en blanc, 1908.

The exhibition is organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

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