Thursday 16 May 2024

Artist and Model: Whistler and Joanna Hiffernan

By Joanna Rhymer

This lecture explores Whistler’s monumental and enigmatic painting called “Symphony in White, No.1: The White Girl (1862).

This celebrated painting of Joanna Hiffernan is on a grand scale typical of portraits from the past. However, his painting technique and treatment of the subject is modern. He depicts her face and red hair in dramatic contrast to her ethereal clothing. The role of Joanna Hiffernan in Whistler’s art and life is explored as there is debate as to whether she was simply the artist’s model and lover or was she a key figure in the development of modern art?


Joanna has an MA from UCL in The History of Modern Art and has been employed in various roles at the National Gallery. She has worked freelance at the Tate, Hayward Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. She is also a panel tutor at the University of Cambridge and teaches for the Wallace Collection and the V and A as well as for private institutions. She specialises in 19th century and early 20th century French art.