Anna Matilda Whistler's correspondence : an annotated edition
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881) is now best known as the sitter for perhaps the most famous painting of an artist’s mother in the world, by James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. My thesis is an annotated edition of Anna Whistler’s extent correspondence, comprising 267 letters and six essays. I have annotated the letters with respect to chronological, geographical, social, political and artistic references, documenting life and culture in the mid-19th century in America, Britain and Russia. Anna Whistler was a prolific letter writer who knew how to shape her epistolary style to suit the person in question. Her commentary ranged from the evolution of travel to Imperialist Russia. Her changing social status - from that of a wealthy housewife in Russia to a bankrupt widow - and her constant search for new homes and horizons for her children, take the reader on a social and geographical journey from the antebellum South to New England, and Europe. It is from these places that Anna Whistler introduced her correspondents and now us, today’s readers, to the personal stories of hundreds of individuals including the leading professionals of the time. These range from manufacturers and railroad engineers to religious leaders, slave owners, army officers and artists. A North Carolinian by birth, Anna Whistler experienced a lifestyle that was rich both in material and spiritual terms. She was brought up in a nineteenth century context, where white middle-class women were confined in most cases to the private domain of the home. Although Anna Whistler believed in traditional domestic roles for women, her circumstances actually led her to more beyond these boundaries.