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Glasgow celebrates its Whistler connections

More than a dozen exhibitions are being held in the Glasgow area over the coming months to mark the centenary of the death of American-born artist James McNeill Whistler.

He visited Scotland only once, in 1903, to accept an honorary degree from Glasgow University, but the university later received a major collection of work and related items from the artist's estate.

By that time, his most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother, had been snapped up by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, but it is on loan to the Hunterian Art Gallery at Glasgow University for the centenary celebrations until October 4. Visitors will be able to find out about the portrait's life as an icon and an inspiration for satirists, cartoonists, copyists and others.

A display by Scottish artists who were asked to create works influenced by the portrait is at the Glasgow Print Studio until August 9.

The Hunterian's Whistler collection, which is one of the world's largest and includes not only pictures but also furniture, silver, ceramics and painting equipment, has been overhauled and divided into new displays concentrating on Whistler's home life, his work as an artist and a designer and his influence on others. These include Whistler and Scotland, covering his links with artists, dealers and collectors, and Beauty and the Butterfly, which looks at his depictions of women, both open until October 4, Copper into Gold, which looks at his printmaking, and Whistler Pastels, both open until Christmas Eve.

Additional centenary displays, drawn from the university's own collection and others, include Anna Matilda Whistler: A Life at the Hunterian, focussing on Whistler's mother, who lived in America (including through the Civil War), Russia and England and bore five sons, only two of whom survived infancy. It runs until October 4.

The Collins Gallery at Strathclyde University is marking the anniversary with the multi-media exhibition Sons and Mothers, running until August 16.

Contemporary artists explore the relationships between mothers and sons in our culture or in a historical context.

Glasgow's McLellan Galleries is showing some of the treasures of the Kelvingrove while it is closed from refurbishment, including Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black No 2: Thomas Carlyle and art by the Glasgow Boys, whom he influenced.

Two Whistler shows are being staged at the Burrell Collection in Pollok Country Park, Glasgow. Whistler and shipping merchant William Burrell shared a love for images of women, oriental porcelain and art. Burrell and Whistler, on until January 18, highlights the story of a passionate artist and an obsessive collector. Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, opening in October, is a collection of pastels and etchings he did during his 14-month stay there.

The Whistler anniversary has also inspired exhibits at the McLean Museum in Greenock, where Whistler, Haden and the Rise of the Painter-etcher opens tomorrow until September 13, and Kirkcaldy Museum, displaying Whistler and the Glasgow Boys until January 25.

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