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.