Whistler and Madonna: Two of a kind
In an article on the Enquirer journalist Sara Pearce discusses how the James McNeill Whistler exhibition on show at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati is an eye-opener in more ways than one. “After learning more about the bombastic artist who courted celebrity, it is clear that his life runs almost parallel to Madonna’s. Yes, Madonna. As in pop singer turned film star turned best-selling children’s book author. Just take a look…
Whistler: Monocle, white plume in dark head of hair, little white dog as accessory, walking stick, frock coat.
Madonna: Boy Toy belt, lace, beads and crosses; cowboy hats and western wear; Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra; red string Kabbalah bracelet.
Whistler: “Flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” – John Ruskin on the painting “Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket”
Madonna: “A deserted island movie during which I desperately wished the characters had chosen one movie to take along if they were stranded on a deserted island, and were showing it to us instead of this one” – Roger Ebert on the movie “Swept Away”
Putting on a show
Whistler: Huge press coverage for avant-garde design of such exhibitions as 1883’s “Arrangement in White and Yellow,” with walls covered in white felt and stenciled yellow butterflies, straw floor mats and yellow flower arrangements. Charged admission, sold the catalog and handed out silk yellow butterflies.
Madonna: Huge press coverage for kissing pop singer Britney Spears during performance of Madonna’s song “Like A Virgin” at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Also kissed Christina Aguilera during the song but with less enthusiasm.
Expatriates in London
Whistler: In 1863 moved to Lindsey Row on the Thames in Chelsea, where neighbors included Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Madonna: In 2000, bought a five-story townhouse with six bedrooms and five bathrooms in London’s West End for 5.95 million pounds.
Whistler: Appears in “Homage a Delacroix,” Henri Fantin-Latour’s oil painting (1864) of rising arts stars, which included Edouard Manet and Charles Baudelaire.
Madonna: Poses for Gap commercial and ads with Missy Elliott (2003), Versace ads (2004-05)
Whistler: “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” published in 1890, gathered quotes from his critics and included his manifesto and letters on art. Paperback reprint selling on eBay for $3 to $9.
Madonna: “Sex,” the 1992 erotic coffee-table book, arrives clad in aluminum cover and sealed in Mylar. In it, she appears in sexually explicit photos alone and with the likes of Vanilla Ice and Big Daddy Kane. Now out of print and selling on eBay for $20 to $152.
Whistler: Artists Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Aubrey Beardsley, poets Baudelaire and Stephane Mallarme, author Oscar Wilde, wealthy patrons F.R. Leyland and Charles L. Freer.
Madonna: Singer Sting, actresses Isabella Rossellini and Gwyneth Paltrow, model Naomi Campbell, fashion designers Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace.
Complex love life
Whistler: Multiple mistresses. Son out of wedlock with Louisa Fanny Hanson (1870). Two daughters out of wedlock with Maud Franklin (1876, 1879). Marries Beatrix Godwin in 1888 and they are happy but she dies of cancer in 1896.
Madonna: Rocky marriage to actor Sean Penn (1985-1989). Daughter out of wedlock with Carlos Leon (1996). Son out of wedlock with director Guy Ritchie, who she marries four months later (2000).
Just can’t escape …
Whistler: “Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother,” 1871, oil on canvas (aka “Whistler’s Mother”).
Madonna: “Material Girl” written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans: “Living in a material world/And I am a material girl/You know that we are living in a material world/And I am a material girl.”
Whistler: Elected president of the Society of British Artists In London in 1886 and President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in 1898.
Madonna: In 2003 becomes author of squeaky-clean children’s picture books “Mr. Peabody’s Apples” and “The English Roses” that make it to the top of the best-seller lists.