The myth perpetuated throughout Whistler's life - of a witty, irascible dandy endlessly feuding with the establishment or anyone else who stood in his way clouds the real extent of his artistic achievement. Now, for the first time ever, and to mark a major exhibition of his work at the Tate Gallery in October, his art and life are brought together ...
The myth perpetuated throughout Whistler's life - of a witty, irascible dandy endlessly feuding with the establishment or anyone else who stood in his way clouds the real extent of his artistic achievement. Now, for the first time ever, and to mark a major exhibition of his work at the Tate Gallery in October, his art and life are brought together to recreate the extraordinary career of the man behind that myth. From a youth in Tsarist Russia and an American military training at West Point to a Bohemian lifestyle in 1850s Paris, Whistler went on to embody the image of the cosmopolitan artist. His friendships with Courbet, Fantin Latour, Rossetti, Millais, Manet, Monet, Degas, Baudelaire, Swinburne, Wilde and Mallarme mark him out as a crucial player in the larger art movements of the nineteenth century, and a pivotal figure between the British and French art scenes. The many strands that make up Whistler's personality form a complex and intriguing individual who sought to uphold a public persona often at variance with his private self. His life reflected the title of his only book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, most notably in his libel suit against Ruskin. Plagued by doubts about his work, his sensitivity made him temperamental. He was often at odds with his family, and was rarely seen without a beautiful woman on his arm, until in his fifties he found happiness in a tragically short-lived marriage to Beatrice Godwin. By examining Whistler's life and work, together with the impact his followers, collectors and friends made on his reputation after his death, Anderson and Koval show this most controversial and colourful artist to be one of the most remarkable men of his age.
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Publishers Weekly, 1995-02-27 Born in Mass., raised partly in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his father was a railway engineer, American painter James McNeill Whistler settled in Paris in 1855, then in 1859 in London, where he cultivated the image of an irascible dandy and lone genius. This persona, in the authors' view, obscures his pivotal role as a bridge between the British and French art scenes, between traditional art and modernism. In this robust biography, Whistler's relations with Degas, Monet, Manet, Mallarm?, John Singer Sargent, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin and others are the matrix for his 30-year battle with the British art establishment. Whistler (1839-1903) comes across as vain, insecure, caddish and cantankerous but also generous and sympathetic. After a string of mistresses whom he dominated, he finally found true love, marrying Beatrice Godwin in 1888. Her agonizing death from cervical cancer eight years later drove him to the verge of a mental breakdown. Anderson and Koval are English art historians. Illustrated. 25,000 first printing; $20,000 ad/promo. (Apr.)
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