James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Born: July 11, 1834; Lowell, Massachusetts
Died: 1903; London
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, James Whistler spent his early childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia where his father was a consulting railroad engineer. Russia was where he began his artistic training until moving to London with his sister. The family returned to the United States after the death of Whistler’s father and James attended school in Connecticut. He went on to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but was discharged for demerits and for failing chemistry. From 1854 to 1855, he learned the craft of etching while working as a cartographer for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington, D.C. After that experience, Whistler moved to Paris where he exhibited with Henri Fantin-Latour. Whistler met Impressionist Claude Monet in 1865, the artist who helped fuel his passion for Japanese prints and Chinese porcelains. He didn’t have his first one-man show until 1874 when he exhibited at the Flemish Gallery in London. After that he was commissioned to decorate the Peacock Room for the Frederick Leyland House and became a member of the Society of British Artists. He became president of that organization in 1886 but was voted out of office two years later. In 1889, he was awarded the Legion of Honor and later made an officer. Back in Paris, Whistler began directing his own art school in 1898, the Academie Carmen. That same year he became the president of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers in London, the city where he died in 1903.