James Abbott MacNeill Whistler
James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a seminal American artist known for his paintings and etchings. His iconic Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), also known as Whistler’s Mother, is one of the most famous portraits of the 19th century. He painted in a style which emphasized layers of wet paint, gradually building tonal contrasts much like his contemporary Édouard Manet. Born on July 10, 1834 in Lowell, MA, he and his family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1842 for his father’s job as a railway engineer. Whistler studied at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts at only 11 years old, returning to the United States with his mother after his father’s death in 1849. He briefly attended the United State Military Academy at West Point before being dismissed for disobedience and poor grades. Arriving in Paris in 1855, with little money and few prospects, he fell into the milieu of Henri Fantin-Latour, Gustave Courbet, and Charles Baudelaire. Over the following decades his work become increasingly sought after, living between London and Paris, Whistler produced several depictions of the River Thames and fell under the influence of Japanese woodcuts. The artist infamously sued the British art critic John Ruskin in 1877, who scathingly attacked Whistler’s painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (c. 1875) in a review. He died on July 17, 1903 in London, United Kingdom.