Whistler’s Mother, or Arrangement in Gray and Black was originally painted by James McNeill Whistler in 1871. The original painting is quite large at 56 x 64 inches. My parody with beer is 11 x 14 inches. The original painting is considered one of the best examples of American Victorian paintings done outside the USA. Whistler’s original painting is displayed and held in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France where it has lived since its purchase in 1891. This painting has been described as an American icon, as well as a Victorian Mona Lisa.
Whistler describes it as a composition of grays and form. He mentioned, of course, that since it is a painting of his mother, he has different emotions about it considering the content, but due to his formalist outlook on his painting he figured that other people would only be able to view it as a painting of grays and shapes. Ironically this image is looked at as an important icon for the adoration of parents, which is far from what the artist expected. It is such a strong icon that Americans have recreated it hundreds of times. It has been in three Simpsons episodes, as well as made into a postage stamp, and is also a larger than life sculpture at the Mother’s Memorial in Ashland, PA. I hope you find it humorous to see Whistler’s mother enjoying a pint while she rests. Obviously she is a huge fan of beer in my interpretation, as she also is the proud owner of a beer painting hanging on her wall.
Cheers to mothers everywhere! I think she’s drinking a glass of Mother Ale from Denali Brewing, or perhaps Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oscar Blues. Or you can imagine it to be your mother’s favorite brew.
The original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available for sale at my Etsy shop.
Let’s revisit René Magritte. I already sampled his famous Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not a pipe) piece by painting a pint glass instead of a pipe, and changing the name to “Ceci n’est pas une pint.” This week’s Thirsty Thursday beer painting is a parody of his self-portrait The Son of Man. This painting leaves a lot up to the interpreter as the apple, or beer pint in this case, completely obscures the face of Magritte. I call this one The Pint of Man.
Magritte says this about the painting, “At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple hiding the visible, but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present. (In a radio interview with Jean Neyens (1965), cited in Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Millen (New York: Harry N. Abrams), p.172.)
Were you thinking about beer goggles while reading the last paragraph? Because that’s what came to my mind. I think the beer pint is a nice addition to Magritte’s concept, because alcohol hides a bit from any social interaction, yet it seems to be readily available at most social times. Entrenched drug cultures often eliminate the stigma of a drug so much that the drug becomes a normal day-to-day habit, and is no longer acknowledged for what it is. I think that the beer pint set in the stage of The Son of Man is accurate to the original concept by Magritte, because the beer interchanges so well with the apple, a symbol for the fruit of good and evil. Those of us who indulge in beer know that it is good, but too much can be evil, and sometimes can lead to harmful aftereffects. Whether beer is good, or evil is debatable, however it can definitely add, or subtract from a conversation. Alcohol can add when there is nothing to talk about, but subtract when too much clouds the mind.
Cheers, and remember, “Moderation in all things… including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde