Whistler, James (Abbott) McNeill
- Margaret F. MacDonald
(b Lowell, MA, July 11, 1834; d London, July 17, 1903).
American painter, printmaker, designer and collector, active in England and France. He developed from the Realism of Courbet and Manet to become, in the 1860s, one of the leading members of the Aesthetic Movement and an important exponent of Japonisme. From the 1860s he increasingly adopted non-specific and often musical titles for his work, which emphasized his interest in the manipulation of colour and mood for their own sake rather than for the conventional depiction of subject. He acted as an important link between the avant-garde artistic worlds of Europe, Britain and the USA and has always been acknowledged as one of the masters of etching (see Jacque, Charles(-Emile)).
From his monogram jw, Whistler evolved a butterfly signature, which he used after 1869. After his mother’s death in 1881, he added her maiden name, McNeill, and signed letters J. A. McN. Whistler. Finally he dropped ‘Abbott’ entirely.
The son of Major George Washington Whistler, a railway engineer, and his second wife, Anna Matilda McNeill, James moved with his family in ...