When James Abbott McNeill Whistler died in 1903, scarcely a dozen
mourners attended the funeral. On the centennial of his death last
year, one might be excused for thinking that even fewer were marking
the anniversary. Overall, a surprising lack of fanfare to
commemorate America's first internationally recognized artist, but
for those who would like to know a little bit more about Whistler
than his mother, there are options on the web - and Whistler
Interactive offers a basic, but engaging introduction.
Part of the ever-growing catalog of exceptional sites from the
Smithsonian Institution, Whistler Interactive opens its presentation
in a manner reassuring to any struggling artist who has yet to
receive recognition (deserved or otherwise). But be careful what you
wish for, specifically, there is an animated collection of less that
complimentary contemporary reviews of the famous painter's work -
Such gems as, "Disastrous failures" and, "Little jokes." After
presenting the critics' perceived shortcomings in his talents,
Whistler moves to a simple index page with a portrait of the artist
as a no longer young man, and links to the site's four sections.
As one might gather from the title of the first section, Mr.
Whistler presents a personal introduction - with biographical notes,
a few words about the connection between Whistler, Oriental art, and
Charles Lang Freer (founder of the gallery where the works are
housed), as well as a look at the painter's talent writing. This
section is also where the visitor first encounters Whistler
Interactive's unique user-interface. With the index on the left, and
background information placed in a borderless and transparent
scrolling text box on the right of the browser window, the center of
the screen is occupied by whatever image is appropriate to the
displayed content. Usually, there will be several images available
for any given piece of text, accessible by clicking on numbers below
the image frame. In some cases, the presence of a magnifying glass
icon indicates that larger versions of the image are available to be
viewed in popup windows. Placing your mouse pointer over an "i"
symbol, reveals specific "curatorial" details about each artwork in
a temporary transparent text box floating directly above the image.
Artwork divides the exhibition's roughly 50 works into such
categories as Medium (oils, watercolors, etc), Subject (landscapes,
portraits), and Place (Paris, London, Venice and Amsterdam). …