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James Abbott McNeill Whistler Biography(1834-1903)
American-born painter and graphic artist, active mainly in England
James Abbott McNeill
Whistler was born in in 1834 in Lowell,
Massachusetts, the third son of West Point
graduate and civil engineer Major George
Washington Whistler, and his second wife
Anna Matilda McNeill. After brief stays in
Stonington, Connecticut, and Springfield,
Massachusetts, the Whistlers moved to St.
Petersburg, Russia, where the Major served
as an civil engineer for the construction of
a railroad line to Moscow. James Abbott McNeill Whistler was
aged nine when his family moved to Russia,
and he spent several of his childhood years
there, studying drawing at the Imperial
Academy of Science.
|Art should be independent of all claptrap-- should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism, and the like. All these have no kind of concern with it, and that is why I insist on calling my works "arrangements" and "harmonies".' James Abbott McNeill Whistler artist was a laborious and self-critical worker, but this is belied by the flawless harmonies of tone and color he created in Whistler paintings, which are mainly portraits and landscapes, particularly scenes of the Thames. No less original was Whistler painting as a decorative artist, notably in the Peacock Room (1876-77) for the London home of the Liverpool shipping magnate Frederick Leyland (now reconstructed in the Freer Gallery, Washington), where attenuated decorative patterning anticipated much in the Art Nouveau style of the 1890s. Whistler's Peacock Room, or Harmony in Blue and Gold (1876-1877, Freer Gallery of Art), done for Leyland, exerted a strong influence on the Aesthetic movement's interior design.|
During the late 1880s and 1890s Whistler
achieved recognition as an artist of
international stature. Whistler paintings were
acquired by public collections, Whistler
James Abbott McNeill received
awards at exhibitions, and Whistler James
Abbott McNeill was elected to
such prestigious professional associations
as the Royal Academy of Fine Art, Munich.
His portrait of Thomas Carlyle was bought by
the Corporation of Glasgow in 1891 for 1,000
guineas and soon afterwards his most famous
work, Arrangement in Grey and Black:
Portrait of the Painter's Mother (1871), was
bought by the French state (it is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and James
Abbott McNeill Whistler artist was made a
member of the Légion d'Honneur. In 1898
James Abbott McNeill Whistler was elected president of the International
Society of Sculptors, artists and Gravers.
Whistler paintings are related to Impressionism (although Whistler James Abbott McNeill was more interested in evoking a mood than in accurately depicting the effects of light), to Symbolism, and to Aestheticism, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler played a central role in the modern movement in England. His aesthetic creed was explained in his Ten O'Clock Lecture (1885) and this, and much else on art and society, was republished in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890).
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