The London Steroscopic Company, photograph of James McNeill Whistler, c. 1879, Glasgow University Library, Department of Special Collections
James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) was a painter, printmaker,
draftsman, and designer. Having left the United States in 1855 at
the age of twenty-one, he lived primarily in London with periods
in Paris. Over the course of his career, he maintained a colorful
public persona as a dandy, wit, and occasional polemicist, capturing
the attention of the press and the admiration of diverse patrons.
He became a leading proponent of Aestheticism, a set of principles
centering on the belief in art’s autonomous value apart from any
moral or didactic purpose. Whistler prized harmonious form, color,
and composition and condemned pure imitation of nature — paving
the way for twentieth-century abstraction.