James McNeil Whistler on the origin of art

A visit to the Freer (a DC treasure in my book) occupied my afternoon. This quote was on one of the walls:

“In the beginning, man went forth each day – some to do battle – some to the chase – others again to dig and to delve in the field – all that they might gain, and live – or lose and die. Until there was found among them, one, differing from the rest – whose pursuits attracted him not – and so he stayed by the tents, with the women, and traced strange devices, with a burnt stick, upon a gourd.

This man, who took no joy in the ways of his brethren, who cared not for conquest, and fretted in the field – this designer of quaint patterns – this deviser of the beautiful, who perceived in nature about him, curious curvings, – as faces are seen in the fire – This dreamer apart – was the first artist.” James McNeil Whistler

Sounds like me at 12, hanging around the art room instead of playing kick ball. I guess the idea of a female artist didn’t really occur to Whistler. Hard to live without him, though, and revisiting the Peacock Room, is one of the major pleasures of being back in DC.

Nocturne In Blue and Silver

Nocturne in Blue and Silver, James McNeil Whistler

The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery in Washington DC

The “Peacock Room” designed by James McNeil Whistler, and now on display at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC.

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