Whistler, James MacNeill

BORN 11 Jul 1834, Lowell, Massachusetts - DIED 17 Jul 1903, London: 74 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea
BIRTH NAME Whistler, James Abbott MacNeill
GRAVE LOCATION London: St. Nicholas' Church, Church Street, Chiswick (Churchyard, at the Northern Wall)

Son of the railway engineer George Washington Whistler and his second wife Anna Matilda McNeill. James MacNeill Whistler was a painter with a style related to impressionism as well as symbolism. He spent some of his childhood years in Russia. In the US he was discharged from West Point Military Academy for 'deficiency in chemistry'. Then he worked for a while as a Navy carthographer and during this period he learned to etch.

In 1855 he went to Paris and studied under Gleyre. He became friends with Fantin-Latour and met Courbet, by whom his early work was influenced. In 1859 he moved to London and in 1860 he exhibited at the Royal Academy. He behaved like a dandy and moved easily in society. He made friends with people like G.D. Rossetti and Oscar Wilde and it seems that Whistler was a witty as Wilde.

In 1877 Ruskin attacked his "Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Flying Rocket" (now in the Detroit Institute of Arts) and although Whistler won the libel process, it resulted in his bankruptcy in 1879. He lived for a year in Venice where he made highly acclaimed etches that also helped him recover financially.

On 11 Aug 1888 he married Beatrix Godwin, the widow of the architect E.W. Godwin with whom Whistler had worked in the past. She was also the daughter of the sculptor John Birnie Philip. The marriage was a success and at this time Whistler finally became more and more successful as an artist. From 1886 until 1888 he was President of the Royal Academy of British Painters and from 1898 onwards President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers.

His "Portrait of Thomas Carlyle" fetched 1000 guineas and his "Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother" was bought by the French state. Whistler received the Légion d'Honneur in 1892.

In 1896 Beatrix died after only eight years of marriage and Whistler never really recovered from her death. He died seven years later in Chelsea.

• Wife: Philip, Beatrix (1888-1896)

Related persons
• was painted by Boldini, Giovanni
• influenced Brooks, Romaine
• was teacher to Daudet, Lucien
• was a friend of Fantin-Latour, Henri
• quarreled with Haden, Francis Seymour
• was a friend of Landor, Arnold Henry Savage
• met Lee, Vernon
• painted Leyland, Florence
• painted Montesquiou-Fezensac, Robert, Comte de
• knew Pellegrini, Carlo
• was a friend of Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• had controversy with Ruskin, John
• employed Sickert, Walter
• used as a model Spartali Stillman, Marie
• was a friend of Stevens, Alfred
• met Veth, Jan Pieter
• was a friend of Wilde, Oscar

1/5/1877Opening of Grosvenor Gallery, London. It was located at 135-137 New Bond Street and it was founded by Sir Coutts Lindsay, who wanted to exhibit paintings that weren't fit for the nearby located Royal Academy. Burne-Jones, Whistler, Watts, Legros, Moore, Hubert von Herkomer, James Tissot, Millais and Holman Hunt were among those who exhibited. Rossetti refused to cooperate because work by members of the Royal Academy was exhibited as well. [Burne-Jones, Edward][Hunt, William Holman][Millais, John][Rossetti, Dante Gabriel]


James MacNeill Whistler's grave at St. Nicholas' Churchyard, Chiswick Mall, Chiswick.
Picture by androom (12 Aug 1997)


   (1863, Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art)

'Symphony in White, No. III'.
   (1865-1867, Birmingham: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts)

'Maud standing'.
   (1873, Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art)

• Sutherland, Daniel E., Whistler, A Life for Art's Sake, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014
• Whelchel, Harriet (ed.), John Ruskin and the Victorian Eye, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1993
• Wildman, Stephen, John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones 1833-1898, Un maître anglais de l'imaginaire, Réunion des Musées Nationeaux, Paris, 1999

Whitcombe, William

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 25 Apr 2022