The layout of the exhibition suggests an emphasis on the three central works, the Symphonies in White, and extends into a variety of directions, exploring different avenues of interest. Whistler and Hiffernan are examined both as a couple and as individuals, with concern shown to their lives and activities in relation to the three paintings. There are several works that showcase Whistler's artistic activities around that time, including print illustrations and works concerning the influence of Japanese art on the artist. On Hiffernan there are several other portraits by Whistler as well as three by Gustave Courbet, who had spent a holiday with Whistler and Hiffernan on the French coast in 1865. In addition to the close examination of the model and the artist, there is also an effort to explore the subject matter of the woman robed in white. Works predating the Symphonies like Rosetti's Ecce Ancilla Domine! or Watts' Lady Dalrymple are presented as prototypes for Whistler's Women in White paintings. These works predating the Symphonies are complemented by the last section of the exhibition, with a selection of works that were inspired by Whistler like Millais' Somnambulist or Klimt's Hermine Gallia.
The title of the exhibition, Whistler's Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan, suggests that it is focusing primarily on Hiffernan and her contribution to Whistler's works. In this, it conceptually follows in the footsteps of the seminal Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2019, which put a spotlight on the women artists as well as models of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Certainly, the role of Hiffernan is emphasised throughout the exhibition as well as the catalogue. However, as explained above, the nature of the exhibition itself does not necessarily centre on Hiffernan, but rather focuses on the three portraits of her. This approach allows the exhibition to remain concise in exploring the works in question in detail without being constrained by a thematic focus. Essentially, the modest scope allows ample exploration of details, whereas an exhibition with a broad theme would be impeded by such minutiae. While the focus on Hiffernan's role in the creation of the Symphonies in White was the impetus of the exhibition, the shift to the works as the gravitational centre makes an exploration of the model more legitimate. It entirely circumvents the apparent imbalance of relevance between the artist and the model for the artwork, an issue that was pervasive in the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition. Indeed, that exhibition was stunted by the reality that it was focusing on women, who, like Hiffernan, had no creative output themselves, so the show had to rely on works by men. The focus on the paintings, as opposed to Hiffernan herself, allowed a more relaxed and free exploration of her contribution to Whistler's oeuvre, without demoting Whistler's own work. Indeed, it suggests that both Whistler and Hiffernan are equal progenitors of the Symphonies in White. Feldman and Salter put it as follows in the introduction of the catalogue: "This book and the exhibition are the first to fully acknowledge the role Hiffernan played in Whistler's career and the first to consider their creations as collaborations," thus presenting the reader with a nuanced picture of the joint effort that the three Symphonies in White truly are.