Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room (1860-61). James McNeill Whistler (Tonalism, 1834-1903). Oil on canvas. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Images of private, enclosed spaces, inhabited by quiet, self-contained figures, recur from Whistler’s earliest etchings to his later watercolors and lithographs. Family members, close friends, or the artist’s current mistress almost always serve as the focus of these interior scenes. This sense of intimacy is underscored by the works’ small scale. Whistler’s interiors thus encourage us to retreat—like his subjects—into a realm of “sweet silent thought.”