WHISTLER, James Abbott McNeill
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Although Whistler (1834-1903) was American by birth, he spent most of his artistic career in England and France. His controversial paintings, and his insistence upon “art for art’s sake,” earned for him a reputation as a revolutionary within the art world. His prints, while definitely modern, were more within the mainstream of the 19th century tradition, and as a result, influenced artists of various aesthetic persuasions. Whistler had already made some prints before he left the United States for Paris in 1855. An etching revival was taking place in France at about this time, which fostered his interest in the medium. Contacts with his brother-in-law Seymour Haden during the 1850s and the 1860sresulted in a large body of prints, which displayed Whistler’s concern with the potential for luminosity, detail and texture in this linear technique. Although prints would play an important role throughout Whistler’s career, it was the 1850s and the 1860s, that he made his most significant contributions. His style absorbed influences from the Realists, the Impressionists, the 17th century Dutch artists and Japanese prints. In turn, his work stimulated other 19th and 20th century printmakers, including Fantin-Latour, James Jacques Tissot, Eugene Bejot and Seymour Haden. Many of Whistler’s best etchings can be found in series such as, The Thames Set, Twelve Etchings from Nature and the two Venice Sets. Whistler also produced lithographs, which are marked by an economy of line and a certain delicacy of handling.