Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Painter and etcher

Painter and printmaker; born 11 July 1834 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Early years in St Petersburg, Russia 1843–9, with visits to England; trained at West Point Military Academy, New York 1851 (discharged 1854); studied at Ecole Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin, Paris 1855–6, and then in studio of Charles Gleyre 1856; the ‘French Set’ etchings published 1858; moved to London and began exhibiting at Royal Academy 1859; The White Girl (later Symphony in White No.1; NGA, Washington) exh. London 1862 and Paris 1863; moved to Lindsey Row, Chelsea 1863; Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother (M. d’Orsay, Paris) exh. RA 1872, after which began showing at Grosvenor Gallery; [1] Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1875; Detroit IA) led to John Ruskin’s accusation that Whistler was a ‘coxcomb’ for asking ‘two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face’ (Fors Clavigera, 1877), provoking lawsuit (one of many) and Whistler’s bankruptcy 1878; lived in Venice 1879–80; elected to Society of British Artists 1884, PSBA 1886 (resigned 1888); ‘Ten o’clock Lecture’ on difference between art and nature delivered in London 1885; married Beatrice Godwin 1888; The Gentle Art of Making Enemies publ. 1890; made frequent travels and received many foreign honours; used studio in Paris from 1892 (sold 1901); death of Beatrice Whistler 1896; elected president, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers 1898; in poor health from c.1900, died 17 July 1903, in Chelsea.

His appearance was provocative and there are many contemporary descriptions. William Merritt Chase on the contradictory aspects to Whistler:

One was Whistler in public – the fop, the cynic, the brilliant, flippant, vain and careless idler; the other was Whistler of the studio – the earnest, tireless, somber worker, a very slave to his art, a bitter foe to all pretense and sham, an embodiment of simplicity almost to the point of diffidence, an incarnation of earnestness and sincerity of purpose. [2]

Arthur Symons on Whistler’s appearance in later life:

I never saw any one so feverishly alive as this little, old man, with his bright, withered cheeks, over which the skin was drawn tightly, his darting eyes, under their prickly bushes of eyebrow, his fantastically-creased black and white curls of hair, his bitter and subtle mouth, and, above all, his exquisite hands, never at rest. [3]

The collector Arthur Jerome Eddy – who sat to Whistler in 1894 – commented on the inadequacy of Whistler’s iconography:

Nearly every sketch, drawing or portrait of Whistler gives some phase of his many-sided personality, but not one – not even those by himself – gives anything like an adequate conception. He was a man most difficult to place on canvas. He could not be grasped and held long enough. He himself tried it, but with only moderate success. Others tried and failed completely – that is, failed to portray him at his best; for that matter no one who has ever drawn or painted him did so when he was at his best, for those moments only came in the seclusion of his own studio, when, alone with model or sitter, he worked absolutely oblivious to everything but his art. No man is at his best when posing for photograph, sketch or portrait, and Whistler was farther from being an exception to this rule than most others. He knew too well what a portrait should be to feel the indifference which is essential to a perfectly natural pose. Consequently, while few men were better known by sight in Paris and London, scarce anyone knew him as he was – the most profoundly serious, conscientious, and consistent artist of his day and generation. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Whistler exhibited at the RA 1859–65, 1867, 1870, 1872 and 1879 (one print). He exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery 1877–9 and 1881–4.
2) Chase 1910, p.222.
3) Symons 1906, p.124.
4) Eddy 1903, pp.225–6.

Referencesback to top

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Beerbohm 1907
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Beerbohm 1913
Beerbohm, M., Fifty Caricatures, London, 1913.

Beerbohm 1921
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Beerbohm 1922; 1987
Beerbohm, M., Rossetti and His Circle, London, 1922; repr. with additions, New Haven and London, 1987.

Beerbohm 1958
Beerbohm, M., Max’s Nineties: Drawings 1892–1899, London, 1958.

Bénédite 1905
Bénédite, L., L’Oeuvre de James McNeill Whistler, Paris, 1905.

Boughton 1903
Boughton, G.H., ‘A Few of the Various Whistlers I have Known: Reminiscences of Whistler’, The Studio, vol.30, no.129, 1903, pp.208–18.

Bowdoin 1902
Bowdoin, W.G., James McNeill Whistler, London, 1902.

Brewster 1917
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Brinton 1908
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Chase, W.M., ‘The Two Whistlers: Recollections of a Summer with the Great Etcher’, Century Magazine, vol.57 (June 1910), pp.219–26.

Conway 1912
Conway, J.J., Footprints of Famous Americans in Paris, London and New York, 1912.

Crane 1911
Crane, W., William Morris to Whistler, London, 1911.

Cross 1992
Cross, T., Artists and Bohemians: 100 Years with the Chelsea Arts Club, London, 1992.

Cuneo 1906a
Cuneo, C., ‘Whistler’s Academy of Painting’, The Century Magazine, New York, vol.73, no.1, November 1906, pp.19–28.

Cuneo 1906b
Cuneo, C., ‘Whistler’s Academy of Painting: Some Parisian Recollections’, Pall Mall Magazine, vol.38, no.163, November 1906, pp.531–40.

Curry 1984
Curry, D.P., James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery, exh. cat., Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1984.

Davids 2000
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Dearden 1999
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Dempsey, A., ‘Whistler and Sickert: A Friendship and Its End’, Apollo, vol.80, January 1966, pp.30–37.

Denker 1995
Denker, E., In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, 1995.

Dorment & MacDonald 1994
Dorment, R., and M.F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1994.

Dowdeswell 1887
Dowdeswell, W., ‘Whistler’, Art Journal, April 1887, pp.97–103.

Du Maurier 1951
Du Maurier, D., ed., The Young George Du Maurier: A Selection of his Letters 1860–67, London, 1951.

Du Maurier 1894a
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Du Maurier 1894b
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Dunn 1984
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Duret 1904
Duret, T., Histoire de J. McN. Whistler et de son Oeuvre, Paris, 1904.

Eddy 1903
Eddy, A.J., Recollections and Impressions of James A. McNeill Whistler, Philadelphia and London, 1903.

Eden 1933
Eden, T., The Tribulations of a Baronet, London, 1933.

Farr 1893
Farr, F., The Dancing Faun, London, 1893.

Foster 1980
Foster, K.A., ‘American Drawings, Watercolours and Prints’, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol.37, no.4, Spring 1980, pp.1–52.

Fredeman 2002–10
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Gallatin 1912
Gallatin, A.E., Whistler’s Pastels and Other Modern Profiles, New York, 1912.

Gallatin 1913a
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Gallatin 1913b
Gallatin, A.E., ‘Whistler: The Self-Portraits in Oil’, Art in America, vol.1, July 1913, pp.151–8.

Gallatin 1915
Gallatin, A.E., ‘Notes on Some Rare Portraits of Whistler’, Print-Collector’s Quarterly, vol.5, no.4, December 1915, pp.433–43.

Gallatin 1916
Gallatin, A.E., Notes on Some Rare Portraits of Whistler, London and New York, 1916.

Gallatin 1918
Gallatin, A.E., Portraits of Whistler: A Critical Study and an Iconography, London and New York, 1918.

Gallatin 1944
Gallatin, A.E., Sir Max Beerbohm: Bibliographical Notes, Cambridge, MA, 1944.

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Getscher, R., and P.G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, New York and London, 1986.

Gray 2004
Gray, A., The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia, 2004.

Greaves 1984
Walter Greaves, 1846–1930, and the Goupil Gallery: Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, exh. cat., Michael Parkin Fine Art, London, 1984.

Guthrie 1903–4
Guthrie, J.J., ‘By the Way’, Books and Bookplates, vol.4, no.3, 1903–4, pp.141–6.

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Guzzi, V., Il Ritratto nella pittura italiana dell’Ottocento, Milan, 1967.

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Hall, N.J., Max Beerbohm Caricatures, New Haven and London, 1997.

Hall 2002
Hall, N.J., Max Beerbohm: A Kind of Life, New Haven and London, 2002.

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Harris, E., ‘Carlo Pellegrini: Man and “Ape”’, Apollo, vol.103, January 1976, pp.53–7.

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Harris, E., and R. Ormond, Vanity Fair: An Exhibition of Original Cartoons, exh. cat., NPG, London, 1976.

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Hart-Davis, R., A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm, London, 1972.

Heseltine 1914
Drawings and Paintings by Artists of Norfolk and Suffolk in the Collection of J.P. H[eseltine]., privately printed, London, 1914.

Hinshaw 1910
Hinshaw, I.C., ‘Whistler’s First Drawings: Unpublished Sketches Made at West Point’, The Century Magazine, September 1910, pp.735–41.

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Houfe, S., The Dictionary of 19th-Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1996 (rev. ed. of Houfe 1978).

Howe 1959
Howe, Thomas Carr, Sargent and Boldini, London, 1959.

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Hubbard, E., Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Artists: Whistler, 2 vols, East Aurora, NY, 1902.

Ingamells 1969
Ingamells, J., ‘Greaves and Whistler’, Apollo, March 1969, pp.224–5.

Jackson 1912
Jackson, H., All Manner of Folk, London, 1912.

Jerrold 1894
Jerrold, W., ed., Bon-Mots of Samuel Foote and Theodore Hook, London, 1894.

Jopling 1925
Jopling, L., Twenty Years of My Life, 1867 to 1887, London, 1925.

Juillien 1909
Juillien, A., Fantin-Latour: sa vie et ses amitiés, lettres inédites et souvenirs personnels, Paris, 1909.

Kenin 1979
Kenin, R., Return to Albion: Americans in England, 1760–1940, New York, 1979 (to accompany exh., National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC).

Kennedy 1910
Kennedy, E.G., The Etched Work of Whistler, Illustrated by Reproductions in Collotype of the Different States of the Plates, New York, 1910.

Kennedy Gallery 1970
Art in Prints, exh. cat., Kennedy Gallery, New York, 1970.

Lavery, Ludovici & Pennell 1905
Lavery, J., A. Ludovici and J. Pennell, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late James McNeill Whistler, First President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers, exh. cat., New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905.

Lochnan 1984
Lochnan, K.A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984.

London 1976
Artists and Writers: An Exhibition of Watercolours, Drawings and Etchings, exh. cat., Michael Parkin Gallery, London, 1976.

London 1979
The Mark of Whistler: James McNeill Whistler’s Influence on Graphics, exh. cat., Michael Parkin Fine Art, London, 1979.

London 1981
A Look at British Printmakers, 1860–1940: An Exhibition of Etchings, Lithographs and Woodcuts, exh. cat., Parkin Gallery, London, 1981.

London 1983
Artists of the Yellow Book and the Circle of Oscar Wilde, exh. cat., London, Clarendon Gallery and Parkin Gallery, London, 1983.

Maas 1984
Maas, J., The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984.

McClelland 1978
McClelland, D.R., Where Shadows Live: Alice Pike Barney and her Friends, exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC, 1978.

MacDonald 1984
MacDonald, M.F., Notes, Harmonies, Nocturnes, exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1984.

MacDonald 1995
MacDonald, M.F., James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.

MacDonald 2003
MacDonald, M.F., ed., Whistler’s Mother: An American Icon, London, 2003.

MacDonald, Galassi & Ribeiro 2003
MacDonald, M.F., S.G. Galassi and A. Ribeiro, with P. de Montfort, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003 (to accompany exh., The Frick Collection, New York).

MacFall 1905
MacFall, C.H.C., Whistler: Butterfly, Wasp, Wit, Master of the Arts, Enigma, Edinburgh and London, 1905.

Malley 2011
Malley, A., ‘Staples, Sir Robert Ponsonby, twelfth baronet (1853–1943)’, ODNB, Oxford, online ed., May 2011.

Mansfield 1909
Mansfield, H., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909.

Mather 1945
Mather, F.J., ‘A Sketchbook of 1875 and 1876 by Homer D. Martin’, Record of the Museum of Historic Art, Princeton University, vol.4, no.1, Spring 1945, pp.5–8.

Menpes 1904
Menpes, M., Whistler as I Knew Him, London and New York, 1904.

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Merrill, L., A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin, Washington, DC, and London, 1992.

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Merrill, L., The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998.

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Mullaly, H., ‘From Courts to Commons’, Apollo, vol.111, April 1980, pp.331–2.

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Nicholson, W., London Types, London, 1898.

Nicholson 1899
Nicholson, W., Twelve Portraits, 1st series, London, 1899.

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Noon, P.J., English Portrait Drawing Miniatures, New Haven, 1979.

Northrop 1904
Northrop, W.B., With Pen and Camera, London, 1904.

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Ormond, L., George Du Maurier, London, 1969.

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Ormond, R., ‘Private Life of a Victorian Painter: John Gilbert’, Country Life, vol.140, 25 August 1966, pp.462–5.

Pearson 1952
Pearson, H., The Man Whistler, London, 1952.

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Pennell, E.R., The Life of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1920.

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Pennell, E.R., and J. Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London, 1908.

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Pennell, E.R., and J. Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London, 5th ed., rev., 1911.

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Pennell & Pennell 1921
Pennell, E.R., and J. Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921.

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Phythian, J.E., Fifty Years of Modern Painting: Corot to Sargent, London, 1908.

Pocock 1970
Pocock, T., Chelsea Reach: The Brutal Friendship of Whistler and Walter Greaves, London, 1970.

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Prandi, D., Giovanni Boldini: l’opera incisa, Reggio Emilia, 1970.

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Pressley, N.D., ‘Whistler in America: An Album of Early Drawings’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol.5, 1972, pp.125–54.

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Rossetti 1903
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Spencer 1969
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Symons 1906
Symons, A., Studies in Seven Arts, London, 1906.

Taylor 1986
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Tedeschi & Salvesen 1998
Tedeschi, M., and B. Salvesen, Songs on Stone: James McNeill Whistler and the Art of Lithography, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, vol.24, no.1, 1998 (to accompany exh., Art Institute of Chicago and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1998–1999).

Thomas 1874
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Thorpe 1935
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Way, T.R., Memories of James McNeill Whistler, London and New York, 1912.

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Way, T.R., and G.R. Dennis, The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation, London, 1903.

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Whistler, J.M., Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899.

Whistler 1904
Whistler, J.M., Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock, Chicago, 1904.

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Whiteley, D. Pepys, George Du Maurier, London, 1948.

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Wilmerding, J., Audubon, Homer, Whistler and Nineteenth-century America, New York, 1975.

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Wilson, S., Beardsley, Oxford, rev. ed., 1983.

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Wittmann, O., The Toledo Museum of Art: European Paintings, Toledo, 1976.

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Young, A.M., M. MacDonald and R. Spencer, with H. Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, New Haven and London, 1980.

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Young, M.S., ‘Revaluations I: “The Colonel” Reconsidered’, Apollo, vol.75, NS, 1962, pp.189–95.

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Young, M.S., ‘Romantic Art from Britain’, Apollo, vol.87, April 1968, pp.300–305.

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Young, M.S., ‘Youth and Old Age’, Apollo, vol.88, October 1968, pp.303–7.