The Lost Symphony: Whistler & the Perfection of Art

This is an exhibition about a painting that does not exist. A rescued fragment of the large painting, numerous figure studies, and the frame that Whistler decorated specifically for the finished work are among the tantalizing clues that hint at the masterpiece that might have been.

The saga began in 1867, when American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) received a commission from a promising new patron, the nouveau riche shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland (1832–1892). Leyland paid the artist to create a “symphony in white,” the fourth in a series of figurative works in which Whistler experimented with idealized arrangements of color and form. If Whistler had completed the large painting, it would have hung opposite his Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (Princess from the Land of Porcelain) in Leyland’s dining room in London.