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James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Resume: James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American painter and etcher, who assimilated Japanese art styles, made technical innovations, and championed modern art. Many regard him as preeminent among etchers.
Whistler was born on July 10, 1834, in Lowell, Massachusetts, however he spent most of his life in Europe – mostly London. After attending military academy for several years he traveled to Paris where he mixed up with the art society and became a pupil of the Swiss classicist painter Charles Gabriel Gleyre. Formal instruction influenced him less, however, than his acquaintance with the French realist painter Gustave Courbet, other leading contemporary artists, and his own study of the great masters and of Japanese styles.
In Paris, Whistler won recognition as an etcher when his first series of etchings appeared in 1858. Afterwards he moved to London, where he seems to find better acceptance of his paintings. Three of Whistler's best-known portraits, were painted around 1872. In 1877 he exhibited a number of landscapes done in the Japanese manner; called nocturnes, they outraged conservative art opinion. The English art critic John Ruskin wrote a caustically critical article, and Whistler, charging slander, sued Ruskin for damages. He won the case, one of the most celebrated of its kind, but the expense of the trial forced him into bankruptcy. He was forced to sell his house in London and the contents of his studio, Whistler left England, worked intensively from 1879 to 1880 in Venice, then returned to England and resumed his attack on the academic art tradition.
In later years Whistler devoted himself increasingly to etching, drypoint, lithography, and interior decoration. He died in London on July 17, 1903.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
James Abbot McNeil Whistler is born in Lowell, Massachusets on 14th of July 1834. His father was George Washington Whistler. He was the first born child of his mother Anna Matilda McNeil (his father’s second wife). He moved to Russia with his family, where his father was invited as a consultant of the construction of a major railroad connecting St. Petersburg and Moscow. There he was fascinated by the porcelain collection in the palace built by Catherine the Great. In St. Petersburg he attended drawing classes in the Academy of Fine Arts.
After his father’s death in 1849 the young Whistler and his mother moved back to the States. Here he enrolled into the West Point military academy, however his grades were less than satisfactory and he left the academy in 1854. Afterwards he became a draftsman for a the U.S. Coast Survey, he didn’t do that well here as well, he was late and did not do his job on time, although he was a good drafter soon they discovered that he was drawing mermaids and whales on the military maps.
A year later he quit the job and left for Paris. He became an art student in Gleyre studio. He made copies in the Louvre, acquired a lasting admiration for Velázquez, and became a devotee of the cult of the Japanese print and oriental art and decoration in general. Soon he met the famous realist Coubret, they became friends and strong influence on each other. In this period Whistler has made the Twelve Etchings from Nature (commonly called The French Set). His paintings were rejected by the French art society and didn’t get to any exhibition in Paris; however some of his paintings were approved by the Royal Academy in London. Therefore he decided to move to London. “At the Piano” was shown by the Royal Academy of London in 1860. In 1863 ”Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl” won great acclaim in Paris. Thereafter exhibitions of his work arise increasing international interest, as did his flamboyantly eccentric personality.
Whistler greatly admired Dutch masters such as Jan Steen, Rembrandt and Ruysdael. In 1858 he visited Holland to view the Nightwatch. Indeed, he became a frequent traveller to the Netherlands, visiting The Hague, Dordrecht and Domburg and producing numerous etchings of one of his favorite cities: Amsterdam.
In 1866 Whistler left for Chile. That was strange for most of his friends however it is not very unusual for most of the artist to search inspiration in such exotic locations. Indeed he found his inspiration to paint his famous three paintings called – the Nocturnes. He liked to go out on the river at twilight and was fascinated by the foggy or misty effects in the fading light.
After returning to Europe he commenced work on a series of monumental figure compositions for called the Six Projects that reflect the influence of the English artist Albert Moore. In 1869 Whistler began to sign his paintings with a butterfly monogram composed of his initials. In 1872 he painted his well-knownArrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother, that was later acquired by the French government.
Whistler's art is in many ways represents just the opposite to his often aggressive personality, being discreet and soft, often described as intimate but the creed that lay behind it was radical. He believed that painting should exist for its own sake, not to convey literary or moral ideas, and he often gave his pictures musical titles to suggest an analogy with the abstract art of music
In later years Whistler worked mostly and increasingly on etching, drypoint, lithography, and interior decoration, which he was proven to be incredibly good at. The Thames series (1860), the First Venice series (1880), and the Second Venice series (1881) heightened his standing as an etcher and won him success when they were exhibited in London in 1881 and 1883. The Peacock Room, which he painted for a private London residence (begun 1876 and moved in 1919 to the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), is the most noteworthy example of his interior decoration.
Toward the end of his life, when he lived in Paris, Whistler came to be regarded as a major artist. He died in London on July 17, 1903.