Pictures of James McNeill Whistler's 1904 Memorial Exhibition

This past Tuesday marked the anniversary of the death of James McNeill Whistler. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Whistler was a realist artist known for his remarkable landscapes, portraits, etchings, and lithographs. Whistler firmly believed in “art for art’s sake,” a motto coined by French philosopher Victor Cousin, emphasizing artistic beauty over deep, socio-political themes.  

In 1904, the Copley Society of Art (then called the Copley Society of Boston) had the honor to hold the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of James McNeil Whistler, which attracted a recorded 41,111 visitors from across the United States. Prints and Photographs from the 1904 Boston and London exhibitions are housed at the Library of Congress, some of which can be seen below.

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[Painting galleries in the Boston Memorial Exhibition, Copley Hall, 1904]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

The above photograph shows the painting galleries in the Boston Memorial Exhibition. Here, a short staircase leads up to one of Whistler’s famous portraits: Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, painted between 1863 and 1865. Standing over 6 feet tall, this painting shows a western woman wearing Asian clothing, as it was part of Whistler’s costume series during the 1860s. Currently, the painting hangs in the famous Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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[The Boston Memorial Exhibition, Copley Hall, 1904]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

In the Memorial Exhibition, a second room was decorated with smaller works by James Whistler. Along with Whistler’s images, ceramics were included to adorn the gallery space—a fitting addition considering Whistler’s own ceramics collection.

The Library of Congress’ collection of images from Whistler’s Memorial Exhibition also includes pictures etchings on display. Harbor boats, beggars on the street, and gloomy architectural scenes were some of the moody subjects shown. While many of Whistler’s etchings are now at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is unclear whether these etchings were the exact items shown at the 1904 Memorial Exhibition in Boston. Scroll down to compare the images!

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[Two prints of a harbor view by James McNeill Whistler on display at Boston Memorial exhibition, Copley Hall]. Marr, Thomas E., photographer. Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana.

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James McNeill Whister, Nocturne, 1879 – 80, Etching and drypoint; sixth state of nine (Glasgow); printed in black ink on heavy cream Japan paper, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917. New York, The Met.

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[Ten prints by James McNeill Whistler on display at Boston Memorial exhibition, Copley Hall] / T.E. Marr. Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana.

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James McNeill Whister, The Beggars, 1879 – 80, Etching and drypoint; seventh state of seventeen (Glasgow); printed in black ink on heavy ivory wove paper, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917. New York, The Met.

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[Four prints of canal views by James McNeill Whistler on display at Boston Memorial exhibition, Copley Hall] / T.E. Marr. Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana.

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James McNeill Whister, Nocturne: Palaces, 1879 – 80, Etching and drypoint; printed in dark brown ink on drum mounted medium weight ivory laid paper, Gift of Harold K. Hochschild, 1940. New York, The Met.

Co|So celebrates Whistler's achievements on this anniversary and remembers our connection with the distinguished artist.