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Artists in 60 Seconds: James Abbott McNeill Whistler


© Musée d'Orsay, Paris; Used with permission

James Abbott Mc Neill Whistler (American, 1834-1903). Arrangement in Grey and Black, no. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1871. Oil on canvas. 144.3 x 162.5 cm (56 3/4 x 64 in.). Musée d'Orsay, Paris

© Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:

Influenced by Realism (especially by Courbet), then in turn personally influenced the Pre-Raphaelites. Later partially influenced by Impressionism. Moved on to his own style, one which was a precursor of Abstract Expressionism.

Date and Place of Birth:

July 10, 1834, Lowell, Massachusetts


As one might guess - by reading that Whistler had no easily defined style, and had spent most of his life traveling abroad - his work was multi-faceted. His earlier pieces were etchings, thanks to skills he picked up working as a cartographer. He painted portraits in the style of Realism, and later turned out abstracted landscapes, which he called "nocturnes." Whistler then returned to etching (drypoint) and tried his hand at lithography and interior decoration.

Important Works:

  • Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1861
  • Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother, 1871
  • Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge, 1872
  • Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1875

Date and Place of Death:

July 17, 1903, London, England

Sources and Further Reading

  • Anderson, Ronald; Koval, Anne. James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth.
    New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002.

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  • Dorment, Richard; MacDonald, Margaret F.; Whistler, James McNeill.
    James McNeill Whistler.
    New York : Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1995.

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  • MacDonald, Margaret F., et. al. Whistler, Women & Fashion.
    New Haven : Yale University Press, 2003.

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  • Weintraub, Stanley. Whistler: A Biography.
    Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, 2001.

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  • Whistler, James McNeill. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.
    Mineola : Dover Publications, 1967.

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  • Whistler, James McNeill; Naylor, Maria (ed.). Etchings of James McNeill Whistler.
    Mineola : Dover Publications, 2003.

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