Thursday, July 11, 2013

July 11 - James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born on July 11, 1834, in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was educated in St. Petersburg, Russia, and later dismissed from West Point for bad grades. He established himself as a painter in Paris and London in the 1850s, never again returning to the United States. Overall, he had no easily defined style, producing multi-faceted works ranging from early etchings (using skills he learned as a cartographer), portraits in the style of Realism, and late abstract landscapes, which he called "nocturnes." As a key proponent of “art for art’s sake,” he retitled many of his works using terms associated with music to emphasize tonal qualities and composition and disregard any narrative content. Oscar Wilde based the murdered artist in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) on Whistler, with whom he quarreled. Pictured: “Whistler’s Mother” is actually “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1” (1871). She was a last-minute stand-in for this exercise in tonal harmony and composition, balancing rectangles and curves.

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