3. Whispering Close

Seward Johnson

Whispering Close, 2000 Ed. 1/8 aluminum

76 x 62 x 54 in.

Inspired by Dance in the City by Pierre Auguste Renoir


Whispering Close, like its companion piece Time for Fun, is based on one of a pair of paintings by Renoir. The subjects, city and country couples dancing, invite comparison.


In contrast with their country cousins, the emotional absorption of the elegant ball attendees presented here keeps us at a psychological distance, and the luxurious waves of fabric of the lady’s gown spill onto the floor around the couple, keeping us at a physical distance as well. Unlike the original painting, Whispering Close allows us other views. We are encouraged to look beyond the fancy trappings of the graceful couple and into their faces. Johnson felt free to play with their expressions in order to give us hints to his view of their pairing.