James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Redux

 “Arrangement in Gray: A (self) Portrait of the Painter” James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1872)

Just the other day I noted a Lowell connection in the current issue of Yankee magazine – a quote from James A. M. Whistler. And now we note that on this day – July 11, 1834 – Whistler was born at home on Worthen Street in Lowell, Massachusetts to George Washington Whistler – a prominent engineer  – and Anna M. McNeill . He briefly attended  West Point but left his unsuccessful experience behind to study art. He was a painter, printmaker, etcher, designer and collector of note who  lived most of his life in England while taking frequent trips to France to study. His wit was legendary. Certainly his famous statement about his birthplace is a good example. Rather than Lowell – Whistler claimed the more exotic St. Petersburg Russia as his birthplace: “I shall be born when and where I want, and I do not choose to be born in Lowell” he declared.  In later years, he would play up his mother’s connection to some Southern  roots, and present himself as an impoverished Southern aristocrat. Whatever his personal eccentricities,  rapier wit and life style, Whister was a great influence in the art and cultural world of his time.

One of my favorite Whistler works  Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862), can be seen  The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. While the largest collection of Whistler’s works including his Nocturnes can be seen at the Freer Gallery of Art also in Washington D.C.

Learn more about Whistler by reading the various biographical sketches here . Learn about the Whistler House Museum of Art here.

One Response to James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Redux

  1. DickH says:

    George Whistler (the artist’s father) was the chief engineer of the Proprietors of the Locks and Canals (the oldest continuously active corporation in America). George’s assistant was James B Francis. Fortunately for Lowell, the country and the world, Whistler soon departed and Francis took his place. I say that not as a knock on Whistler but as a recognition of the genius of Francis who, with all the opportunities available in 19th Century Lowell, made a lasting impact on Western Civilization.