(LOWELL, MA 1834 – LONDON 1903)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (July 11, 1834 – July 17, 1903) was an American artist active during the American Gilded Age based in the United Kingdom. He eschewed sentimentality and moral allusion in painting and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake”. His signature for his paintings took the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol combined both aspects of his personality: his art is marked by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. The famous Peacock Room established his notoriety with wealthy clients wherein he depicted two Peacocks with feathers shaped like golden coins, over a tussle about payment. He found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings “arrangements”, “harmonies”, and “nocturnes”, emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1(1871), commonly known as Whistler’s Mother, is a revered and often parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his theories and his friendships with other leading artists and writers. His legal battle with art critic John Ruskin brought attention to his work, which was not highly valued in its day. The French government had purchased Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 for a few hundred dollars. (Source: Wikipedia and the author).