Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whistler, Art and $ at the Legion -- Day 74

Walk: Legion rooms, Union Square Distance: 1.25 Mi.

Another Legion visit on a jaw-droppingly beautiful SF day. Lecture was on the prehistoric Olmec civilizations in Mesoamerica. Fun to see docent friends.

Ciwt made a quick trip to the visiting replica of Whistler's Peacock Room*. This is his 'portrait' of his benefactor, Frederick R. Leyland, whom he spent many years in court suing for payment for his work on the Peacock Room. Whistler eventually prevailed - sort of: he was awarded @$1 and was essentially ruined from the all the court costs.

Not very flattering, but considering the circumstances, Ciwt is not sure she doesn't side with Leyland. He had recently added a room to his sumptuous London home to entertain friends as well as to display his extensive collection of priceless Chinese porcelain. The project was executed by the fashionable and expensive London decorator Thomas Jeckyll who appointed it in rich, subdued colors with deep brown leather walls and an elaborate network of dark wood shelving so that the porcelains would stand out and be highlighted. Leyland then commissioned Whistler to paint the focal art above the fireplace. Pleased with the results of this fireplace painting, Leyland went on to commission Whistler to oversee the 'final decorative touches' of the room project and went away on an extensive vacation. When he returned his serene, subdued, richly brown room that served as backdrop for the porcelains looked like this under Whistler's supervision:

Ciwt personally completely understands why horrified Leyland refused to pay. And, in the long run, being financially ruined forced Whistler to return to portraiture - where Whistler's Mother and other portrait studies earned him his place of prominence in the history of art.

Time to leave the Legion:


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