James Mcneill Whistler Biography | Oil Paintings
7-10-1834 Lowell, USA - 7-17-1903 London, ENGBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
James Abbott McNeil Whistler parents wanted him to be a minister, that did not work out well, he wanted to be an officer in the army so from 1851 to 1854 studied at West Point Military Academy, that did not work out well either, except for learning drawing and map making from artist Robert Weir. He then worked as a Navy map maker for a year and bored with that, he decided to go to Paris to take up art seriously. Whistler never returned to the United States. Whistler never returned to the United States. He met Gustave Courbet and Henri Fantin-Latour and joined their group of Realist painters.
James Abbott McNeil Whistler sold little or nothing in his first year in Paris and was in steady debt. To relieve the situation, he took to painting and selling copies he made at the Louvre and fell in love with Japanese art, which was then a novelty. In 1859 he settled in London, where he began painting in a style which combined these influences rather than following the English narrative convention. He strove to present a harmonious composition of tone and color, doing in paint what a composer might do in music. This analogy was evident in the titles of these paintings, which James Whistler called Nocturnes which came about from a trip in 1866, when he decided to visit Valparaiso, Chile, what the journey did produce was Whistler's first three nocturnal paintings, which he termed "moonlights" and later re-titled as "nocturnes", night scenes of the harbor painted with a blue or light green palette.
His work got a very mixed reception, John Ruskin being his most vociferous critic and accusing him of “flinging a pot of paint in the public's face”. Even so, his views gained ground and influenced the next two generations of artists, in Europe and in the United States.
Whistler had a lot of contacts and was constantly exchanging his thoughts and concepts with the Realist, Impressionist, and Symbolist painters. His tonalism had a profound effect on many American artists, including John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and also Arthur Frank Mathews, who took Whistler's Tonalism to San Francisco, introducing the style to the turn-of-the-century California artists who embraced it.
In 1871, Whistler's Mother the official name being Arrangement In Grey And Black No1 Portrait Of The Artists Mother was painted and has become an icon of American art. Yet, it was executed in the London neighborhood of Chelsea where he had moved in 1859. Unverified stories say his mother was a replacement for another model who couldn't come. The painting was supposed to be standing up, but she sat down because to pose standing was too tiring for the 67-year-old. In opposition to the Pre-Rapaelites, Whistler proposed a style based on vibrations of color, often describing his paintings as “arrangements” or “symphonies” of chromatic tones.
Art Movement History: Realism, Tonalism
Artists Influencing James Whistler: Gustave Courbet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Rembrandt, Velázquez
He Traveled To France, England, Russia, Germany, Chile
Painters McNeill Whistler Influenced: John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Willis Seaver Adams, Arthur Frank Mathews
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.