Poor old Whistler. He wasn’t very successful with the women. There were many reasons for this. For a start he lived with his mother, and she would do anything within her power to prevent him getting cosy with any of the lasses he ever met. Then he had wooden false teeth, because plastic ones hadn’t been invented in those days. Apparently, they didn’t look too bad, but they made him whistle whenever he said anything beginning with ‘S’ So asking Sally or Susan to go for a stroll with him on Sunday never went down too well. And of course, he was more interested in messing about with his paint box than spending time with the opposite sex anyway. Ruddy men and their hobbies.
So while Gus Klimt, Charlie Soulacroix , Fred Leighton, Alf Stevens and the rest of the boys were painting lasses laid out like dogs dinners with all their charms on show, Jimmy Whistler was painting his mother, with her serious face on and all wrapped up in a long black dress,.
It was her idea to get him to do the painting. “What’s the use of having an artist for a son if you don’t get him to immortalise you in oils?” she said to her friends from the gin palace. She knew exactly how she wanted it done an’all. “I don’t want you mucking it up and making me look ridiculous like you did that Joanna Hifferman, with her hear all over the place, standing on a dead bear. No wonder she packed you in for Gustave Courbert! I shall sit down while you do me, thank you very much, and put my feet on a stool. And you can do me from the side, so I don’t look bog eyed. You always paint people bog eyed when you do them from the front.”
“And another thing… I don’t want you doing all that ruddy whistling while you are painting, either! I want you concentrating on what you are doing!”
Any road. Even though he said it was a pain in the rear end listening to her going on at him whilst he was doing the painting. Jimmy was happy that the end result brought him recognition in the art world. In fact it was about the only painting he did that anyone outside the art world can remember, and because of it, his ruddy mother is more well known than him.
In fact Jimmy had it tough, because not only was his mother more famous than he was, but also his brother, Willy, was the president of the British Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Association, and did surgery on peoples ears, noses and throats. “I will admit” he used to say, “that my profession is not brain surgery, but it takes a bit more brains painting ruddy pictures does.”
Perhaps Jimmy had the last laugh though, because he outlived both his mother and his brother. After his mother died he even got himself a proper girlfriend Beatrix Godwin, another painter who was over twenty years younger than him. He married her in 1888, but their relationship turned sour after he did a painting of here that made her look bog eyed.