James McNeill Whistler

American painter and etcher (1834 - 1903)

A painter, printmaker and celebrity, Whistler was one of the most prominent artists of his day. He was famous for his wit and eccentric personality. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he was raised in a hard-working Puritan family and attended West Point Military Academy. He later worked at the US Coastal Survey in Washington DC where he learnt to etch topographical elevations of the coastline with great detail and precision.

In 1855 Whistler moved to Paris, studying at the Ecole Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin and the studio of Charles Gleyre (1806-74). He later became associated with Gustave Courbet (1819-77) and the realist movement in France.

By 1859 Whistler had made London his home. Fascinated by the bustling working life of the River Thames, he began etching the scenes known as the ‘Thames Set’. Mostly created between 1859 and 1861, they were immediately popular with art critics and collectors. They were not published until 1871 by Messrs Ellis & Green as ‘A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on The Thames and other Subjects’ once wider interest in etching had been renewed. A few years later the Thames was transformed. Many buildings were replaced by new embankments, and the activities of river life changed forever.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Americas: Northern America: USA: Massachusetts: Middlesex County: Lowell
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: London: Kensington and Chelsea: Chelsea
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded
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