Whistler’s Mother to visit Melbourne

Whistler James Abbott Mac Neil (1834-1903). Paris, musÈe d'Orsay. RF699.

Whistler James Abbott Mac Neil (1834-1903). Paris, musÈe d’Orsay. RF699.

One of the world’s most famous paintings, James McNeill Whistler’s Portrait of the artist’s mother, 1871, will travel to Australia for the first time in March 2016. The painting is on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and exhibited exclusively at the NGV in association with Art Exhibitions Australia.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘Alongside da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Munch’s The scream sits Whistler’s Portrait of the artist’s mother as one of a handful of artworks which enjoy universal recognition and admiration. We are grateful to the Musée d’Orsay for loaning us this most treasured item as part of a cultural exchange between the two institutions which will see the NGV’s renowned painting, Pierre Bonnard’s Siesta (La Sieste), 1900, loaned in return.’

Dr Isobel Crombie, exhibition curator and Assistant Director, NGV, commented, ‘Whistler’s Mother marks the first time that this large and imposing artwork has been exhibited in Australia, offering a unique opportunity for audiences to see one of the world’s most extraordinary masterpieces here in Melbourne. This focused exhibition takes viewers on a captivating journey through the history of the work; uncovering the life and career of Whistler, the life of its sitter – Anna Whistler – its conservation, the influences that informed the work’s production, its volatile reception and until now unexplored Australian connections, before viewers encounter the arresting painting in a dedicated room.’

The NGV has its own associations with Portrait of the artist’s mother. The NGV holds an edition of the etching Black Lion Wharf, 1859, which is depicted in the background of the famous painting, and a similar Goodwin chair to the one which Anna Whistler sits on. The exhibition will also reveal the profound influence Whistler has had on some of Australia’s most prominent artists including John Longstaff, Tom Roberts, E. Phillips Fox and Hugh Ramsay.

The National Gallery of Victoria is delighted to lend Pierre Bonnard’s Siesta (La Sieste), 1900, to the Musée d’Orsay in 2016 to acknowledge the Museum’s 30th anniversary. The exchange of these important paintings between the NGV and the Musée d’Orsay will occur under the program of the Australia-France Agreement on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation.


Whistler’s Mother will be on display at NGV International from 26 March – 19 June 2016. Open daily, 10am–5pm.