paintings in gold frames in the Whistler to Cassatt exhibition

Behind the Scenes of Whistler to Cassatt

A first-of-its kind exhibition 10 years in the making

Whistler to Cassatt brings to the fore the richly braided story of American and French creative discourse—and how it shaped the past and present of painting in America. The exhibition weaves a combination of themes to underscore the allure of Paris for American artists of the time and the intersections of global influences that continue to reverberate in today’s American culture.

Reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris was a timely revelation, as was the voluminous scholarship on such topics as American artists who trained in private Parisian ateliers and the École des Beaux-Arts (such as Whistler, Sargent, and Mary Cassatt), American women artists (such as Elizabeth Jane Gardner, Cecilia Beaux, Elizabeth Nourse, and Lilla Cabot Perry), and the African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. The exhibition narrative grew commensurately richer as my research expanded.

Fortunately, I was assisted by Curatorial Research Assistant Alisa Robin, who maintained a running dialogue in person, by email, and through phone calls that provided invaluable data prior to my discussions with curatorial colleagues. And while all these conversations were happening, I worked hand in hand with Kati Woock, then-Managing Editor of the museum’s publications department, on the second component of creating an exhibition: editing the accompanying exhibition catalog. This involved writing a proposal to Yale University Press to co-publish the book, communicating closely with authors Emmanuelle Brugerolles, Suzanne Singletary, Randall C. Griffin, Susan J. Rawles, and Benjamin W. Colman; working with Renée B. Miller, the DAM’s Manager of Rights & Reproductions, on image rights; and coordinating the production and design respectively with Mary Mayer and Eileen Boxer.

Then there is perhaps the third and most crucial component of creating the exhibition, which is implementing the fruits of this research and scholarship into a compelling narrative and engaging experience. Visitors to this exhibition received the benefit of the creative contributions of Interpretative Specialists Melora McDermott and Ann Lambson, Exhibition Coordinators Emily Atwool and Emily Willkom, Registrars Sarah Cucinella-McDaniel and Caitlin Rumery, and the exhibition and graphic design firm Ramble. The many staff members who serve in the exhibitions, communications, marketing, conservation, and development departments, among others, also helped to make Whistler to Cassatt special. I hope you enjoy seeing the show as much as I enjoyed working on it!