Whistler’s mother and her sheepdog

Story suggested by Debra Hall Wednesday 17th March

James Abbott McNeill Whistler painted his mother in 1871 and titled it “Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1.” After her husband’s death,  Anna Matilda McNeill Whistler wore black for the rest of her life. She was described by a sister-in-law as “so unshakeable that sometimes I could shake her.” 

This hints at the source  for the artist’s characteristic flamboyance – his signature was a blue butterfly.

When he worked as a map maker, his habit of filling his maps with mermaids, sea monsters, and other mythical creatures cost him his job.

One of Whistler’s foibles was the dog which he had inherited from his mother. A great big, hairy lump of an English sheepdog – it intruded and prevailed upon many a social occasion, annoying and distracting colleagues, customers, models and family members alike.

The dog accompanied him wherever he went. His mother had trained it to sing for snacks. If they were not forthcoming it growled sufficiently convincingly to elicit hasty rewards.

She had been excessively fond of the dog and shampooed and groomed it weekly. However, it was expensive to keep, having a voracious appetite and no respect for other people’s property. Whistler was forever having to pay off butchers for stolen sausages. They were too afraid to challenge it, as it was as big as a bear!

He eventually sold the dog to a circus, where it excelled for some years before succumbing to its over-familiarity with a tiger.

It is believed that Whistler was not too distressed.

(I must admit I made up the story of the dog.)

Author: manqindi

Post imperial wind drift. Swazi, British, Zimbabwe-Rhodesian, Irish, New Zealand citizen and resident, now in Queensland, Australia. 10th generation African of mainly European descent. Catholic upbringing, more free thinker now. BA and Law background. Altar boy, wages clerk, uncle, prefect, student, court clerk, prosecutor, magistrate, convoy escort, pensioner, HR Practitioner, husband, stepfather, father, bull terrier lover, telephone interviewer, Call Centre manager, HR manager, grandfather, author (amateur)

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