Whistler's mother had nothing on columnist Isabel Torrey
It was near Mothers Day a number of years ago when a friend and I were coffee-ing, and she remarked, You know, Ive always liked that famous painting Whistler did of his mother; it so reminds me of my own Mom.
I picked up on that, saying, I feel the same way. You know what? Wouldnt it be fun if wed dress up like Whistlers mother and snapped pictures of each other?
Mary, my cohort-in-crime (and both of us a bit crazy in our middle-age stages), was all for it. I already have a long black dress that can fit either of us. And, since you dont sew, Ill make you a deal: If youll take the pictures, Ill make the bonnet.
Good idea! Ill snap, you sew. (Mary knows my idea of a torture chamber is being shut up in a room with a sewing machine.)
Now, before relating Marys and my prank, a bit of background about the famous painting commonly known as simply, Whistlers Mother. Few know it was originally titled, Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1.
Reportedly in his younger days, the artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, was a problem student - kicked from West Point for poor grades, fired from his job with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for erratic job attendance, lost his money suing a critic whod said the so-called artist shouldnt get paid for work that looked as if hed thrown a pot of paint on the publics face.
But back to Marys and my antics:
After Mary and I snapped each other dressed as Mrs. Whistler and viewed the finished photo, I spotted something and told her, Oh, Oh! The real Whistlers Mothers portrait would never have had an electrical outlet on the wall! (Back in 1871, people knew more about static electricity in Leyden jars than about electric juice running through wires.) But maybe viewers wont notice the anachronism.
Then I came up with another idea: Mrs. Whistler looks so prissy-prim - do suppose she ever got down on her knees and scrubbed floors?
Why dont you do that? Mary giggled. Ive always thought youre a bit off your rocker anyway!
By the way, that old idiom, Youre off your rocker, dates back to the mid-1800s when mentally unstable people were likened to a rocking chair missing one of its rockers; thus Mrs. Whistler wouldve known what that implied!
In 1934, the postal department honored the American artist posthumously by using his famous painting on a 34-cent U. S. stamp. As for Whistler original painting, it now hangs on a wall at the Musée dOrsay in Paris.
So, if you cant personally travel to Paris for Mothers Day to see that painting for yourself, youll simply have to settle for looking at these reproductions.
©2015 Isabel Torrey, a long-time columnist who resides in King City..