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About James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler changed the course of art history with his radical techniques and adoption of Asian design principles, which emphasized a two-dimensional flattening of painted forms and their arrangement into abstract patterns. A London-based expatriate, Whistler embraced and promoted the doctrine that art should not serve narrative, but rather project the artist’s subjective feelings through the handling of the medium. His revolutionary methods changed existing approaches to oil paint, pastel, watercolor, etching—even interior design and the decorative arts. The flat, expressive, and radically simplified forms in his Venice pastels, and his use of fluid blue and gray pigments in his abstract nocturnes, altered how his contemporaries like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas saw and understood art. He scandalously named one of his most famous paintings Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (1871), suggesting the reduction of a portrait of his mother to an arrangement of formal elements.

American, 1834-1903, Lowell, Massachusetts

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

2016
"This Art Is Your Art" Competition, White House Historical Association, Washington DC
2015
Whistler's Mother: Grey, Black, and White, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown
2015
Landscape Drawings in The Frick Collection, The Frick Collection, New York