James Abbott McNeill Whistler

American (1834 - 1903)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler An Arrangement in Grey and Green. Portrait of John James Cowan (1846 - 1936) begun 1893

Biography

Born 1834
Died 1903
Nationality American
Birth place Lowell
Death place London

Whistler was born in Massachusetts. He trained in Paris and then moved to London, where he became associated with the English Aesthetic movement, befriending the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He collected Japanese art objects and from the early 1860s began incorporating Japanese elements into his work and experimenting with technique, rejecting realism and painting from memory. He developed his own aesthetic theory, giving his works musical titles, seeking tonal harmony in his paintings and emphasising the formal qualities of his work, rather than narrative content. His Nocturnes, were important precursors of Symbolist painting. Whistler courted notoriety. He voiced his theories in publications such as ‘The Red Rag’ and his famous ‘Ten O’Clock’ lecture, first delivered in London in 1885.

Glossary terms

  • A printmaking technique using a stone or zinc plate to which the image is applied with a greasy material. After wetting the plate, greasy ink is applied. The ink sticks only to the drawn image and not the wet surface, thus creating a reproduction when applied to paper.