Curator's blog

Leighton, Whistler, and Aestheticism

painting, Flaming June, of woman in repose in lush and vivid orange sheer garment

In 1877, James McNeill Whistler sued John Ruskin for libel. Earlier that year, the critic had accused the artist of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” in response to one of his pictures then on view at London’s newly established Grosvenor Gallery. The case — victorious in name but financially devastating for the painter — is widely regarded as a clash between the Victorian art establishment and the avant-garde movement known as Aestheticism.

A Masterpiece of Spanish Painting Enters the Collection

painting depicting man dressed in black with mustache in oval frame

When the art historian Jacob Burckhardt visited the Louvre in 1843, a self-portrait by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo stood out amidst the superb Spanish works that made up the Galerie Espagnole, a magnificent collection assembled by King Louis-Philippe. Burckhardt wrote: “Murillo is still one of the greatest who ever lived. Here hangs his portrait (by his own hand). It is the key to all his works. . . . Look at these splendid, slightly pouting lips! Do they not reveal the man of action!