Whistler's "Arrangement"

Published: 2017-11-01
Whistler's "Arrangement"
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  United States Arts Personality
Pages: 2
Wordcount: 352 words
3 min read

James McNeill Whistler was a distinguished American artist during the gilded age. Most of his paintings deviated from the concepts of moral allusion and sentimentality, which made them unique and adorable. Moreover, a butterfly with a long tail was the core signature for most of his paintings. This symbol enhanced the subtle delicacy of his art and complemented his combative personality. Most of Whistler's paintings were entitled "arrangements," "harmonies" and "Nocturnes" to emphasize tonal harmony and highlight the distinction between art and music.

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One of the most acknowledged works of Whistler entailed "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1”. The artistic theories of Whistler contributed to the visual appearance of this art and other works. He utilized the term “arrangement” to represent the balanced composition of forms and colors in executing his artworks (Weisberg, Chu, & Dixon, 2008). Moreover, by arrangement, Whistler implied the essence of repeated geometrical shapes, lines, and color shades in bolstering visual calm and stability.

Evidently, the concept of arrangement manifests in Whistler’s favorite painting, Whistler’s Mother. Initially, this portrait commenced with the subject assuming a standing position. Consequently, Whistler resorted to portraying his mother in a seated position to depict her protestant appearance. In this painting, Weisberg et al. (2008) believe that the colors in the background coupled with the perfect arrangement of geometrical shapes highlight the figure of the artist's mother. Besides "arrangement," Whistler also nicknamed his paintings "Nocturnes." In effect, Whistler was referring to the ability of his paintings to capture the mysterious effects of light after sunset.

In a nutshell, Whistler used the term "arrangement" in his art to refer to the effective integration of color shades and geometrical patterns. As a result, this concept fostered the visual calm and stability of his works. Subsequently, the effective balance between forms and colors ensured Whistler captured the strange effects of light during the night, which improved the aesthetic appeal of his paintings.


Weisberg, G. P., Chu, P. -D., & Dixon, L. S. (2008).Twenty-first-century perspectives on nineteenth-century art: Essays in honor of Gabriel P. Weisberg. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

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