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January 30, 2014

Through Whistler's Eyes

Artist's work in London drives winter exhibitions at Addison Gallery

Locals have a chance to take in Lowell native James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s study of the Thames River and other scenes in England when “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames” opens at the Addison Gallery of American Art tomorrow night.

The international show comes to Andover as part of the gallery’s winter offerings and runs through April 13. It features more than 70 paintings, prints and drawings created in London by Whistler, who was born in Lowell in 1824 and settled in England in 1859.

“Although Whistler has been the subject of many exhibitions, ‘An American in London’ provides the first focused examination of this important period in his career,” said Susan Faxon, interim director of the Addison.

“We are delighted that the Addison’s ‘Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge,’ which was one of the first paintings Whistler completed after moving to London, will be shown in the context of his other extraordinary work exploring life along the Thames in the Victorian era,” she added.

“Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge” is one of the original 50 paintings purchased before Addison Gallery’s opening in 1931. Faxon said that the idea for the Whistler exhibit arose eight years ago from the museum’s desire to showcase that work. The Addison reached out to Whistler experts and museums around the world to bring “An American in London” to life.

In London, Whistler focused on portraying the city and the river Thames in new ways. He was particularly interested in the bridges that spanned the Thames, the industrial neighborhoods along its banks and the workers who called these areas home. In addition to Whistler’s paintings, prints and drawings, historic photographs of London will be on display to give context to the artwork.

From a historical perspective, Faxon said that Whistler’s importance cannot be overlooked.

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