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Be a painter… have some debt!

Mrs Whistler Book Cover Mrs Whistler
Matthew Plampin
Historical Fiction , Literary Fiction
HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction
03 May 2018

Chelsea, 1876

Struggling artist Jimmy Whistler is at war with his patron. Denied full payment, he and muse Maud Franklin face ruin.

As Jimmy’s enemies mount, he resolves to sue a famous critic for libel, in a last-ditch attempt to ward off the bailiffs. Although she has no position in society, Maud is expected to do her part. But Maud has a secret that forces her to choose between art and love.

Mrs Whistler is a dazzling glimpse inside a world of passion, art and power.

A nice blend of reality plus imagination – as the author himself admits, the exact circumstances cannot be known as there were no diaries, and ‘Mrs’ Whistler herself and her actions and feelings were never documented at the time.

It seems clear that Whistler was not only a braggart but also naive and always thought that either people were his friends or his enemies and never considered that some may have had dubious reasons for being his friend – see Howell. And were so many of his paintings really destroyed? If so, it was a real shame. But his classic painting of his mother is still to be viewed.

Personally though I cannot agree with his reaction to Burne-Jones having seen a recent exhibition of his work where it demonstrates just how good he was, and how multi-talented, despite his later somewhat fanciful works of angels etc.

I am great fan of Whistler’s moody paintings where the items are barely distinguishable – the low light and almost monochromatic effect are wonderful.

I surprised myself by enjoying the book, but then I like (almost) all the Pre-Raphaelite painting/painters and found this an interesting exposition of just how they lived – so many debts – yet so much entertaining, and the fostering of children was heart-rending to read about.

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