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Whistler, James Abbott McNeill

Whistler, James Abbott McNeill (1834–1903). Painter and etcher, born in Massachusetts. Dismissed from West Point, Whistler joined the US navy, where as a cartographer he learned etching and decided on a career in art. He went to Paris in 1855 before settling in London in 1859, where he enjoyed an early success, not only for his art but also for his flamboyant life-style. Often controversial, he conducted a number of campaigns against both critics and public. In 1877 he sued Ruskin for libel and although he won his case and was awarded one farthing in damages, the expenses bankrupted him. In one year, he was able to restore his fortunes with the sale of etchings made in Venice. His later life saw both artistic and financial success, with his salon in Chelsea a fashionable gathering place. In 1890 he published The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, a collection of caustic letters and comment.

June Cochrane

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