James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth

Ronald Anderson, Author, Anne Koval, With
Ronald Anderson, Author, Anne Koval, With Carroll & Graf Publishers $30 (544p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0187-2
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-0-7867-1032-4
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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, Mallarme, 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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