1990.9

1990.9

Artist Biography

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) was born into wealth in Lowell, Massachusetts, and was educated at West Point. In 1855 he went to Paris to study art and never returned to the United States. London became his permanent home after 1859. Portraiture dominated Whistler’s early work and reflected his association with London society. Despite his success and connections, he left England for a time in 1879, when disputes with the critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) and his former friend and patron Frederick R. Leyland bankrupted him. He went to Venice where he redirected his art by exploring the light and atmosphere of the city in delicate etchings, pastels, and watercolors. Whistler returned to London in 1881 and lived there until the end of his life, but he never again looked upon his adopted city with the same affection. In 1890 this famously irascible artist published a memoir—a collection of letters that he called The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.