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Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

Image credit: Glasgow Life Museums

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The great Victorian and social critic, Thomas Carlyle, asked Whistler to paint his portrait after having seen Whistler's portrait of his own mother in the artist's studio. Like 'Whistler's Mother' (Musee d'Orsay, Paris), Carlyle is shown in profile against a plain background. Despite the fact that Whistler was portraying the most famous moral philosopher of the Victorian age, he chose to give the painting an abstract title. Whistler's point is clear – through his art, the painter can transform even the most eminent personality, into a study in shape and texture. The portrait is remarkable for its sympathetic portrayal of the elderly man – Carlyle was 78 years old. In his journal, during the period of his sittings to Whistler, Carlyle noted: 'More and more dreary, barren, base, and ugly seem to me all the aspects of this poor diminishing quack world'.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum


Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle




oil on canvas


H 171.1 x W 143.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from the artist, 1891

Work type


Inscription description



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Normally on display at

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8AG Scotland

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