James Abbott McNeill Whistler

1 portrait

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, by Sir (John) Bernard Partridge, late 1880s - NPG 3541 - Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd

Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

by Sir (John) Bernard Partridge
watercolour, late 1880s
10 3/8 in. x 5 3/8 in. (264 mm x 137 mm)
Given by Mrs Lucy Margaret Lamont, 1947
Primary Collection
NPG 3541


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Partridge published several caricatures of Whistler in the 1880s and probably made this highly finished drawing towards the end of the decade, showing him in full dandified rig, wearing a monocle and buttonhole and holding the ubiquitous cigarette. The monochrome colour scheme and visible paint washes are a tribute to Whistler's radical artistic style, best known through his 'Nocturnes'. Beside his own signature Partridge also includes Whistler's symbol of a butterfly with a stinger, representing the artist's double-edged character as summarised by William Merritt Chase: 'The fop, the cynic, the brilliant, flippant, vain and careless idler...the earnest, tireless, sombre worker, a very slave to his art...' The inscription reads: 'Drawn in late 'eighties, when the / artist has [sic] been in the same room as Whistler for half an hour. only.'.

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Current affairs

Queen Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years of her reign. In what becomes known as 'Bloody Sunday', or the Trafalgar Square Riot, the police attack a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation, led by among others) Elizabeth Reynolds, John Burns, Annie Besant and Robert Cunninghame-Graham, killing three and injuring more than 200 crowd members.

Art and science

A Study in Scarlet, the first of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson, is published. One of only four novels (there were a further 56 short stories) featuring Holmes, the mystery turns around the discovery of a corpse in Brixton. The essayist and critic Walter Pater publishes Imaginary Portraits in which he consolidates his doctrine of Aestheticism, 'art for art's sake'.

International

Britain ratifies the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, thus accepting the terms of the International Copyright Act (1886), which abolishes the requirement to register foreign works and introduces an exclusive right to import or produce translations. The British annex Zululand; it becomes part of Natal in 1897.

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