Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl  

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James Whistler's painting Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862) caused controversy when exhibited in London and, later, at the Salon des Refusés in Paris. The painting epitomizes his theory that art should essentially be concerned with the beautiful arrangement of colors in harmony, not with the accurate portrayal of the natural world.
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James Whistler's painting Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862) caused controversy when exhibited in London and, later, at the Salon des Refusés in Paris. The painting epitomizes his theory that art should essentially be concerned with the beautiful arrangement of colors in harmony, not with the accurate portrayal of the natural world.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Symphony in White, No. 1, also known as The White Girl, is a painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The work shows a woman in full figure standing on a wolf skin in front of a white curtain with a lily in her hand. The colour scheme of the painting is almost entirely white. The model is Joanna Hiffernan, the artist's mistress. Though the painting was originally called The White Girl, Whistler later started calling it Symphony in White, No. 1. By referring to his work in such abstract terms, he intended to emphasise his "art for art's sake" philosophy.

Whistler created the painting in the winter of 1861–62, though he later returned to it and made alterations. It was rejected both at the Royal Academy and at the Salon in Paris, but eventually accepted at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. This exhibition also featured Édouard Manet's famous Déjeuner sur l'herbe, and together the two works gained a lot of attention. The White Girl shows clearly the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with whom Whistler had recently come in contact. The painting has been interpreted by later art critics both as an allegory of innocence and its loss, and as a religious allusion to the Virgin Mary.





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