Slideshow Image for Friends & Enemies

About This Exhibition:

Old College Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is open to the public, and admission is free. To enter Old College, use the wheelchair-accessible door on the southeast side of the building. Please observe the University’s current COVID-19 health and safety protocols when visiting. At this time, that includes wearing a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and completing the Daily Health Screening ahead of your visit. If you are not fully vaccinated, please physically distance at least 3 feet from others when inside the gallery.

There is nothing like a good fight!—Whistler, 1880

James McNeill Whistler (18341903), the expatriate American artist, had a formidable presence. He was known for his consummate skill as a painter and printmaker, for his radical art theories, for his wit—and for his combative persona that repeatedly led his friendships to devolve into feuds. Whistler’s forceful personality was at odds with the delicacy of his art. His iconic signature of a graceful butterfly with a barbed stinger embodies this contradiction.

Inspiring many and reviled by some, Whistler courted controversy throughout his life.

Friends & Enemies: Whistler and his Artistic, Literary, and Social Circles explores Whistler’s high-profile place in the art world and in the literary and social worlds of Paris and London. Tracing famous controversies, such as Whistler's lawsuit against art historian John Ruskin and his verbal sparring with Oscar Wilde, the exhibition has at its core an array of Whistler’s etchings and lithographs. Printmaking was central to Whistler’s career and he is considered one of the great masters of etching and lithography. Whistler’s prints and writings are juxtaposed here with works on paper, photographs, books, periodicals, and ephemera by his associates and the followers who helped ensure his long-lasting legacy. 

This exhibition brings together materials from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, Museums, and Special Collections, all part of University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press, and from important lenders.

The exhibition was curated by Ashley Rye-Kopec, Curator of Education and Outreach, Museums; Mark Samuels Lasner, Senior Research Fellow, Special Collections; and Amanda Zehnder, Chief Curator, Museums. All of the content in the forthcoming gallery installation is represented in this presentation online. Assistance in research, design, and installation of this exhibition was provided by Jan Broske, Danielle Canter, Tim English, Colleen Estes, Dustin Frohlich, Brian Kamen, and Kris Raser.

View this Online Exhibition