Profile of an elderly woman in austere, black clothing seated in a chair in a plain room.

365 Days of Art: July 11 – James Abbott McNeill Whistler is Born

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Gray and Black, No. 1, 1871

July 11, 1834

James Abbott McNeill Whistler is born.

His motto is “art for art’s sake.” One of his best moments (which we’ll cover later in the year) is filing suit against the art critic John Ruskin who unnecessarily slams his work; his bon mots and Oscar Wildesque zingers in the courtroom have everyone laughing out loud. One quote from the trial that I identify with is when he states his birthplace as St. Petersburg, Russia. Questioned on this, he states:

I shall be born when and where I want, and I do not choose to be born in Lowell [Massachusetts].”

Amen. If you know Lowell, you still understand this. I basically feel the same way about Pittsfield.

He often titles his paintings as if they are musical compositions: “arrangements,” “harmonies,” and “nocturnes.”

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