For Immediate Release
August 25, 2015

Williamstown, Massachusetts—Marc Simpson, independent scholar and former American Art curator at the Clark Art Institute, presents the lecture “The Mingling Blues of Mist and Night: Whistler’s Nocturnes” on Sunday, September 6 at 3 pm at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill on the Clark’s campus. The lecture coincides with the Clark’s exhibition Whistler’s Mother: Grey, Black, and White.

In 1871, while at work on Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother)—familiarly known as Whistler’s Mother—James McNeill Whistler made the first of what he initially called his “moonlights,” paintings that we now know as “nocturnes.” Uniting many of the thirty-plus canvases, in addition to a pervasive darkness at odds with most pictures of the era, is a surface that seems more like breath on glass than paint on canvas. This approach to applying paint—original to Whistler and extremely challenging to achieve—is diametrically opposed to the way most modern painters of the era worked. In his lecture, Simpson considers both the promise and the frustrations that Whistler’s nocturnes, and a few similarly painted portraits, presented to his contemporaries.

In addition to the iconic portrait, Whistler’s Mother: Grey, Black, and White features a selection of Whistler’s prints and drawings, Japanese woodblock prints that inspired the artist, and ephemera that explore the image’s role in popular culture. The exhibition is on view through September 27.


The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, open to the public with more than 240,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open daily in July and August, 10 am to 5 pm; open September through June, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit or call 413 458 2303.

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