Whistler and His Contexts

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

“Whistler and His Contexts,” an exhibition currently on display in the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art, was co-curated by two seniors: art history and English major Elizabeth Jakaitis from Grayslake, Ill., and art history major Jordan Kirkbride, from Rock Island, Ill., with Dr. Catherine Carter Goebel, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts and Director of the Centre for Whistler Criticism.

The exhibition examines the works of James McNeill Whistler and artists working before, during and after his career, in an effort to understand Whistler’s life and art in their context.

Whistler was a peculiar, fiery personality, who was very interested in creating his own public image. This is highlighted in the exhibition, as is the way that Whistler’s contemporaries and followers imagined him.

This exhibition reflects the sustained research on Whistler from the Centre for Whistler Criticism. The center’s director, Dr. Goebel, is the international authority on Whistler criticism. The center's mission is to promote scholarship related to Whistler, and to create a digital archive of lifetime criticism of Whistler and his art. Jakaitis and Kirkbride were afforded the rare undergraduate opportunity to research original archival collections from such international centers as the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Glasgow.

Both students were thrilled to be given such a rare opportunity. “Co-curating ‘Whistler and His Contexts’ has been such an exciting culmination of four years studying art history and working in the Centre for Whistler Criticism,” said Jakaitis. “As I prepare to go into a career in art criticism, it was such a joy to have the opportunity as a curator, and to be able to focus on my interest in Whistler's relationship with critics and draw attention to that in the exhibition.”

Kirkbride added, “This exhibition has allowed me to show what I’ve learned during my time with the Centre for Whistler Criticism and the art history department. I’m very proud of our exhibition and see it as one of the highlights of my college career.”

Jakaitis and Kirkbride will present their respective senior inquiry papers on May 13 at 7 p.m. in Room 12, Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts (3701 7th Ave.), on Whistler's English and French criticism respectively, with a reception in the “Whistler and His Contexts” exhibition immediately following. This will be the closing celebration event for the exhibition, and the public is invited, free of charge.