At The Piano (1858-59) by James Whistler

At The Piano - James Whistler - 1858-59

Artwork Information

TitleAt The Piano
ArtistJames Whistler
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions67 x 91.6 cm (26 3/8 x 36 1/8 in.)
Current LocationThe Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
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About At The Piano

The Piano is a genre painting created by McNeill Whistler in 1858-18, and is widely regarded as his first masterpiece. This painting depicts the home of the artist’s half-sister and niece in London. Although it was painted in a realistic style, the focus of the painting lies not with its subject matter but rather on the relationship between them. Through his use of light and line, Whistler conveys an emotional exchange between mother and child – a moment of tenderness shared regardless of any outside distractions.

Whistler’s subsequent artwork, Arrangement In Grey And Black, No. 2: Portrait Of Thomas Carlyle, was an indirect tribute to this early success. While still using elements of realism to portray his subject, he moved away from using too many details and arranged everything around Carlyle’s calm countenance. This technique emphasized expressionism over realism – suggesting that some secrets are best left unexpressed – while also paying homage to The Piano in its subtle composition.

Whistler was a pioneer in European art from the mid-19th century onwards – blending classicism with modern ideas to create masterpieces such as The Piano and Arrangement In Grey And Black, No 2: Portrait Of Thomas Carlyle that would go on to influence future generations.

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