He was an American-born in Lowell, Massachusetts. However he was British-based most of his life he was born on July 11, 1834.
Beginning in 1842, his father was employed to work on a railroad in Russia.
After moving to St. Petersburg to be with his father a year later, he took private art lessons, and then enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts at age eleven.
He was sent to Christ Church Hall School with his mother in hopes that he would become a minister.
It was evident that religion was not his calling after some time; he then applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his father had taught drawing.
However, during his three years there, his grades were barely satisfactory.
He quickly began to rack up demerits for his lack of respect for authority figures.
Colonel Robert E Lee was the West Point Superintendent at the time and after considerable tolerance he had no choice but to dismiss the young cadet.
After West Point, he worked as draftsman mapping the entire U.S. coast for military and maritime purposes.
After it was discovered that he was drawing sea serpents, mermaids, and whales on the margins of the maps, he was transferred to the etching division of the U. S. Coast Survey.
He arrived in Paris in 1855, rented a studio in the Latin Quarter, and quickly adopted the life of a bohemian artist.
He studied traditional art methods for a short time at the Ecole Impériale and at the atelier of Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre.
In 1861, after returning to Paris for a time, he painted his first famous work, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl.
In 1866, he decided to visit Valparaíso, Chile, a journey that has puzzled scholars even to this day, although he stated that he did it for political reasons. Chile was at war with Spain at the time.
What the journey did produce was his first three nocturnal paintings—which he termed “moonlights” and later re-titled as “nocturnes”.
By 1871, he returned to portraits and soon produced his most famous painting, the nearly monochromatic full-length figure entitled Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1.
He also produced numerous etchings, lithographs, and dry-points. His lithographs, some drawn on stone, others drawn directly on “lithographie” paper, are perhaps half as numerous as his etchings.
In 1877 he sued the critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic condemned his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: the Falling Rocket.
The cost of courts and other expenses bankrupted him even after winning the Jury trial.
After the trial, he received a commission to do twelve etchings in Venice. He eagerly accepted the assignment.
He died on July 17, 1903 at the age of sixty nine most people remember him by his most famous painting titled Whistler’s Mother, his name was James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
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