Inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s famous Peacock Room, contemporary painter Darren Waterston creates his own decadent interpretation in a major installation at MASS MoCA. Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre is a contemporary reimagining of James McNeill Whistler’s decorative masterpiece Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room—originally a dining room in the London mansion of shipping magnate Frederick Leyland. In 1876 and 1877, Whistler transformed the space with painted leather walls, gilded shutters, and a ceiling reflecting the coppery golds and brilliant blues of a peacock’s plumage. Waterston reconstructs the historical room as a sumptuous ruin, replete with reinterpretations of Whistler’s paintings and 250 hand-painted vessels. This title features all-new photography of Whistler’s and Waterston’s rooms, accompanied by essays by their curators and a scholar of patronage.
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The Peacock Room was a decorative art project that a very wealthy patron named Leyland commissioned James McNeill Whistler to create while the owner was going to be away for a few months. Meant to serve as a place to house his collection of Chinese porcelain and paintings by Whistler himself, Leyland was surprised to learn that the modest assignment he had envisioned, a few days work at best, had suddenly become a massive reworking of the entire room. Expensive leather wall-coverings and mahogany shelves had been painted over in blue, with gilt illustrative flourishes everywhere. Whistler then proceeded to give Leyland a very large bill, far more than had been agreed upon, for unsolicited work. Leyland was not happy about the liberties the artist had taken, but agreed to pay half.
What followed was a bitter campaign of slurs and insults, most of them originating from Whistler. He had been in financial trouble, and obviously saw 'The Peacock Room' as a way to alleviate those...
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