Title

'Embryonic Phantoms': Materiality, Marginality and Modernity in Whistler's Black Portraits

Publication Date

2011

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Considering why nineteenth century reviewers equated Whistler’s ‘Black Portraits’ with the practices of the spiritualist movement yields insights into the effects of the material limits of painting in the years before 1900. New visual technologies were generating novel cultures of excitement, skepticism and paranoia, and the veracity of Whistler’s portraits were conditioned by the timing of their production between the production of the first ‘spirit photographs’ in England in 1872, and the projection of the first ‘enchanted painting’ trick films in 1894. Spirit photography served as a critical framing of Whistler’s works because of potent points of connection including issues of mediumship, darkness, indexicality, an iconography of touch, gendered marginality and the mechanics of materiality inherent in the fantasy of animation in late Victorian visual culture.

Original Citation

Shirland, J. (2011). 'Embryonic Phantoms': Materiality, Marginality and Modernity in Whistler's Black Portraits. Art History, 34(1), 80-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8365.2010.00802.x.