Family Podcast


James McNeill Whistler worked for months to transform this dining room—which belonged to his friend Frederick Leyland in London—into a painted work of art. This is that actual room, moved from its original location in London, England.

If you look closely, you can see the golden touches that Whistler added to the door and around the windows. You can also see the pattern of peacock feathers he painted on the walls and ceiling. He even put four large peacocks on the window shutters. Now look up at the ceiling. Imagine how he painted on such a hard-to-reach surface. How would you do it?

But after all that hard work, things didn’t turn out as Whistler had hoped. When Leyland saw how different the room looked, he was surprised, and he was not happy. He thought Whistler was only making minor changes to the room, and he refused to pay what the artist asked for his work.

Furious and disappointed by his now former friend’s reaction to the room, Whistler set out to get revenge. He painted a big mural showing himself and Leyland as fighting peacocks, taking up nearly all of one wall! Which peacock do you think represents Leyland, the wealthy businessman? Which one is the artist? We’ll give you a hint—one of the peacocks has silver and gold coins on its chest, and even more coins scattered around its feet. That one is Leyland.

Now imagine they could move. What might happen next?