The World of James McNeill Whistler

The World of James McNeill Whistler

The World of James McNeill Whistler

The World of James McNeill Whistler

Excerpt

This book does not pretend to be a definitive biography of James McNeill Whistler. It is rather an interpretation of his life and art. Some readers may complain that I have not recited all the Whistler anecdotes of which there are so many, yet it is my belief that very few have improved with age.

The legend of his showmanship still tends to overshadow Whistler, "the serious artist," who in his generation made enduring contributions toward an appreciation of Oriental art. His work became an influence that survives today. In retrospect and in relationship to contemporary painting, his work, however slight and tenuous it may seem, can be recognized as more American and more "modern" than it seemed to be twenty years ago. It is to be hoped that "the serious artist" in Whistler will gain another hearing.

In respect to Whistler's genius one should not confuse solemnity with seriousness. He was never solemn. However improvident he was, however lavish he became in the spending of his energy or his creditors' money, he could never afford the luxury of being dull. He was both gallant and courageous, and as someone said, requoting a remark made by Samuel Johnson, "Where there is no courage, no other virtue can survive--except by accident."

H. G.

Palisades, N. Y. May 1, 1959 . . .

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