James McNeill Whistler

American , 1834 - 1903

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1834. Although he lived most of his life in England, he was one of the most influential late 19th century American painters and etchers. He used a wide variety of styles including Impressionism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau and was especially influential in the Tonalist movement.

Whistler produced 179 lithographs, having received a commission in 1879, after which he worked in graphics, pastels and watercolors. Among his favorite subjects were delineated cityscapes or ships sitting in dock. He spent some time, in his youth, in Russia where his father, an engineer, was commissioned by the Czar to build the Moscow-St. Petersburg railroad.

Whistler traveled to London for his sister’s wedding in 1847. His new brother-in-law, Seymour Hayden, was an important figure in 19th century etching. Whistler's association with Hayden stimulated an interest in etching.

Whistler returned to the United States in 1849 and entered the Military Academy at West Point where he completed illustrations for student publications and worked as a surveyor and cartographer in U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Surveys. In 1855, Whistler sailed for Europe and never returned to the United States. In Paris he studied with Charles Gleyre and associated with Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet and Edgar Degas, among others. Whistler settled in England in 1859, but remained in close contact with his Parisian friends.
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