James Abbott McNeill Whistler

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    James Abbott McNeil Whistler

    Childhood and education

    James Abbott McNeil Whistler was one of the oldest sons of George Washington Whistler and his second wife of devoutly Episcopalian. As a child, Whistler had anger issues and was prone to mood swings. His parents quickly observed that drawing made him calm, so they encouraged it. In 1842 Whistler's father was recruited by Tsar Nicholas to design the railroad. At that time, Whistler moved with his father, younger brother, and mother to St. Petersburg, where he showed his drawings to Sir William Allan, a Scottish painter. Allan encouraged Whistler and helped cultivate his talents, and in 1845 at the age of 11, Whistler took admission in the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts.

    Whistler's formal education ended just four years later when his father died from cholera. After that, the family returned to the United States. Whistler's mother helped her children and gave them every opportunity irrespective of their poor financial condition. She sent Whistler to Christ Church Hall School and wanted Whistler to become a minister, but Whistler wanted to pursue his career in arts. In 1852 Whistler got admission into the United States military academy, and there Robert W. Weir taught him drawing. Still, due to his poor academic performance, he had to leave the school. Map-making skills helped Whistler get his first job at West point as a topographical draftsman for the US coast. During his two months, he learned about etching, and he later created 490 etchings, mezzotints, and drypoints. To be an artist, Whistler left Europe in 1855 and never came back to the United States.

    Early training

    Paris gave him so many opportunities and a solid training ground to develop his skills. Whistler's true development started in 1858 when he contacted the French painter Henri Fantin-Latour; through him, he met the realist painter Gastave, Alphonse, and Edouardmanet. With the influence of great artists, his artistic vision improved. Gastave's realism highly influenced Whistler's painting style. It can be seen in the "At the Piano" (1859). The artist relocated to London in the same year. After few years, Whistler abandoned his realistic vision in favor of whimsical style. Again his Japanese aesthetic principles further separated his vision of realists.



    Nature period

    Whistler permanently settled in London in 1859. He traveled and exhibited his artwork in France. Some of his paintings were rejected by the royal academy in London and the French salon. But they are now considered modern art. Whistler's work used color to explore the formal relationship in a great manner. Whistler loved traveling with his brush. After some years, Whistler gained popularity as an artist, and he was reputed as a Witty man. Whistler also suffered from mood swings and high temper issues. The anger and jealousy caused the problem between his Mistress Joanna Hiffernana, and their relationship fell apart.

    Apart from the home relationship, Whistler's personality also affected his career as an artist. But now, he is known as the greatest example of an Anglo-Japanese artist. He has a huge contribution to aesthetic interior design. Whistler's also had a bitter relationship with art critics. He came up with his art theory and described it as "the science of colors and picture patterns." Whistler also sued a critic, but in the end, he won. But it cost him too much money causing financial problems.

    Late period

    In 1879 Whistler was bankrupt and was forced out of his London home. In 1888 Whistler married Beatrix Godwin. Her reputation helped Whistler to make more commission for work. She died due to cancer in 1896. Later Whistler found an art school, and the school was closed in 1901. But due to his poor health conditions, he worked less and soon dies on July 17, 1903.


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