James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a prominent American-born artist known for his nocturnal London cityscapes, full-length portraits, etchings, and lithographs. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1834 to Major George Whistler and Anna McNeill, he spent part of his youth in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he received his early education at the Imperial Academy of Sciences.
Although Whistler briefly attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, he was dismissed for failing to keep up with chemistry lessons. He later moved to London to study art and eventually became a leading proponent of “art for art’s sake.” His signature on paintings took the form of a stylized butterfly.
Whistler’s work is characterized by its lack of moral allusion or sentimentality. Instead, he focused on aesthetic beauty and often incorporated musical themes into his paintings. He also experimented with unconventional techniques such as printing on silk instead of paper and using various metal plates for etchings.
Plagued by financial difficulties throughout his career, Whistler nevertheless left behind an enduring artistic legacy. He died in London in 1903 but remains celebrated today as one of the most influential artists of the late 19th century whose works are still studied and admired worldwide.