Home > Explore > American Art > Sweet Silent Thought: Whistler's Interiors

Sweet Silent Thought: Whistler's Interiors

August 20, 2011–Summer 2012
Freer Gallery of Art

In Victorian England in the nineteenth century, life was separated into gendered spheres. The masculine realm was often characterized by outward-directed activities of physical exertion, industry, and business. Women, on the other hand, were identified with the private world of imagination and self-reflection, as seen in this selection of prints by American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. Images of private, enclosed spaces, inhabited by quiet, self-contained figures, recur from his earliest etchings in the mid-1850s to his later watercolors and lithographs. Family members, close friends, or the artist's current mistress almost always serve as the focus of these interior scenes. This sense of intimacy is underscored by the works' small scale, which compels the viewer to stand close and study the scene carefully. Whistler's interiors thus encourage us to retreat—like his subjects—into a realm of "sweet silent thought."

 

Detail from Harmony in Green and Rose

Detail, Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room; 1860–61; Oil on canvas; F1917.234. Learn more »


As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.