James Abbott McNeill Whistler: A Life

Gordon Fleming, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (367p) ISBN 978-0-312-05995-8
This withering biography knocks Whistler (1834-1903) off a pedestal. The man who painted marvelously subtle color harmonies emerges as an insufferably vain snob, a combative hothead given to fistfights, a racist who once punched a Haitain in the face simply because he was black. Although born in Massachusetts, the artist passed himself off as a Southern gentleman in London where he was ensconced. Whistler believed his only responsibility was to his art. His early romantic liaisons were with ``undemanding, uncomplicated'' women, and he neglected the children born to them, even in later years when he married and settled down. Fleming ( The Young Whistler ) never satisfactorily explains what transformed the youthful painter, amiable and generous, into a vitriolic, jealous poseur, yet this portrait is convincing. Illustrations. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
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