The City of Lowell is filled with many unexpected hidden gems. One such gem is the surprising combination of art and history that can be found at the Whistler House Museum of Art, located at 243 Worthen St. in Lowell.
This charming and historical 1823 home is the birthplace of painter and etcher James McNeil Whistler.
Born in 1834, this American artist moved to Europe where he built a reputation for being a leading proponent of the theory “Art for Art’s sake,” and became one of the most important artists of his time.
His most famous painting is the iconic “Whistler's Mother,” which now hangs in the Musee du Luxembourg in France.
The Whistler family only lived in the Worthen Street home for a short time before moving overseas. The home was then occupied by several different owners before it was purchased by the Lowell Art Association in 1908.
The Lowell Art Association (LAA) is the oldest incorporated art association in the country, and they have used their resources to renovate this historic home into a museum and art gallery.
In 2015, the Whistler House became the recipient of the “Excellence in Cultural Heritage Award” from the Lowell National Historical Park and the Lowell Heritage Partnership for the historic preservation of the Whistler house that was strategically paired with modernization. This award was granted after a massive renovation was done to the Whistler House kitchen, which was originally added to the home in the 1850’s.
The renovated kitchen now boasts period soapstone sink and cast iron stove, reclaimed chestnut flooring, and antique cupboards and icebox, bringing it back to its original charm. However, everything has also been updated to function in modern day life.
Located right outside of the Whistler House kitchen is a small park with a statue of James McNeil Whistler on display. It is a peaceful haven among the busy hustle of the surrounding city, a perfect place for sight seekers to enjoy a short stroll or to sit and chat.
The first and second floor bedrooms of the Whistler House have been utilized to house the permanent art collections that are on display, one of which is an entire room dedicated to the etchings of James McNeil Whistler.
Also on permanent display at the Whistler House is the work of Armenian immigrant Arshile Gorky. Gorky is often referred to as the Father of American Abstract Expressionism. His work can be found on display at the Tate Modern in England, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art.
The Whistler Museum is fortunate to have Gorky’s work “Park Street Church in Boston” on display as part of its permanent collection. Painted in 1924, this is one of the earliest known paintings done by Gorky while he was a student at the New England School of Design in Boston.
Besides the permanent collections, the Whistler Museum also features many changing art collections by local artist and LAA members that are on display in the Parker Gallery, which is located just behind the main house.
On display now until Jan. 25, the LAA is hosting a juried members exhibition for the fall/winter season.
90 works of art that were hand picked from over 250 submissions are on display representing both modern and traditional methods and aesthetics, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, fiber art, printmaking, and photography.
The LAA encourages art in the community and often offers adult and youth education classes.
The youth program also includes an extensive summer program, a community outreach program for low income students and families, and free scholarships to talented artists from low and middle income families in Lowell.
The Whistler House Museum of Art is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or you can call for an appointment at 978-452-7641.
To find out more information about art education classes for both youth and adults, visit www.whistlerhouse.org.