top of page

"Whistler's Monster"

(Derangement in Grey and Black)

Jimmy "The Whistler" McNeill

Little Jimmy McNeill was sent to the finest art schools so that he could devote his entire life to painting portraits of his mother, Lucille. It is uncertain if he ever left the house after the age of 16. By the time his mother finally died in 1894, he had amassed over 5,500 paintings with such titles as "Mother Leaning Over to Lecture Me," "Mother Choosing my Clothes," "Mother Disapproving of the Way I Cleaned the Floor," "Mother with New Hat Bought with My Allowance," and "Mother Not Permitting Me to Talk to the Girl Next Door."


On the day of his mother's death he piled all canvases but one in the drive of the family's Lowell, Massachusetts estate and set a conflagration that could be seen as far away as Boston. He then added the whip, which he had nicknamed "Lucille's Tongue" to the saved painting before authorities burst in and arrested him.


Only one other painting by McNeill is known to exist, although it has never been released for exhibition by order of the Governors of Arkham Asylum. Known as "Still Life with Axe and Scattered Maternal Body Parts," it was McNeill's final work, which he labored over obsessively in his cell until his death in 1903.


BACK          NEXT


bottom of page