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James McNeill Whistler:
A Brief Chronology


James McNeill Whistler c.1896

The American-born artist, James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) dominated the late 19th century art world.

Painter, printmaker, designer, writer of art, aesthete and wit, Whistler's many achievements included a series of striking portraits; atmospheric "Nocturne" views of London and the Thames; innovative etchings; the "tour de force" interior "The Peacock Room"; and his landmark lecture on art, the "Ten O'Clock". His career was largely divided between London and Paris.

Whistler established a new and sophisticated language of art, both visual and literary, which has had a profound influence on subsequent generations.

1834 Whistler born 11 July, at Lowell, Massachusetts
1843 Whistler moves with his family to St Petersburg, Russia, following his father, Major George Washington Whistler's appointment as a civil engineer for the St Petersburg to Moscow railway
1845 Attends drawing lessons at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, St Petersburg
1848 Lives with his half-sister Deborah Haden at 62 Sloane Street, London
1849 His father, Major George Washington Whistler dies; family return to America
1851-4 Attends United States Military Academy, West Point
1854-5 Works at the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey
1855 Moves to Paris
1856 Enters the studio of Charles Gleyre
1858 Produces the etchings published as the "French Set". Meets artists Fantin-Latour, Courbet and Legros
1859 Moves to London; etches with Seymour Haden; begins the "Thames Set" of etchings
1860 Exhibits At the Piano at the Royal Academy
c.1860 Meets Joanna Hiffernan
1863 Moves to 7 Lindsey Row, Chelsea; exhibits The White Girl at the Salon des Refusés, Paris; his mother, Anna Matilda Whistler, arrives in London from America
1865 Meets Albert Moore; paints with Courbet at Trouville
1866 Brief trip to Valparaiso, Chile; separates from Joanna Hiffernan
1867 Moves to 2 Lindsey Row, Chelsea
1870 Birth of son, Charles James Whistler Hanson
1871 Paints Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother and first nocturnes of the Thames
c.1873 Maud Franklin becomes Whistler's model and subsequently mistress
1873 Paints Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle
1874 First one-man exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall
1875 Anna Whistler retires to Hastings
1876-7 Decorates the Peacock Room at 49 Prince's Gate, the London home of Liverpool shipping magnate, F.R. Leyland
1877 The critic John Ruskin's comments on work exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, provokes Whistler to raise a libel suit; commissions the White House from E.W. Godwin; birth of his daughter, Ione Franklin
1878 Briefly takes up lithography; awarded damages of one farthing in the Ruskin libel suit
1879 Birth of his daughter, Maud McNeill Whistler Franklin; declared bankrupt; leaves for Venice with a commission from the Fine Art Society, London, for 12 etchings
1880 Exhibits the "First Venice Set" etchings at the Fine Art Society, London
1881 Exhibits Venice pastels at the Fine Art Society, London; Anna Whistler dies; leases studio at 13 Tite Street
1883 Exhibition of Venice etchings at the Fine Art Society, London, and Wunderlich's, New York
1884 Exhibition of "Notes"–"Harmonies"–"Nocturnes" at Dowdeswells', London; leases studio at 454a Fulham Road
1885 Delivers the "Ten O'Clock" lecture, Prince's Hall, London; lives at the Pink Palace, and subsequently The Vale, Chelsea
1886 Second exhibition of "Notes"–"Harmonies"–"Nocturnes" at Dowdeswells' A Set of Twenty Six Etchings of Venice published by Dowdeswells' elected President of the Society of British Artists; resigns in 1888
1887 Resumes lithography; exhibition of 50 oils at Galerie Georges Petit, Paris
1888 Moved to 14 Upper Cheyne Row, and subsequently the Tower House, Tite Street; breaks with Maud Franklin and marries Beatrix Godwin; honeymoons on the Continent
1889 Paints and etches in Amsterdam
1890 Moves to 21 Cheyne Walk; publishes The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, a selection of correspondence and writings on art; meets his future great patron, the American industrialist, Charles L. Freer
1891 Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle purchased by Glasgow Corporation; Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother purchased by the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris
1892 Major retrospective at the Goupil Gallery, London. The Whistlers move to 110 rue du Bac, Paris, and take a studio at 86 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs
1894 The Whistlers return to London
1896 Takes a London studio at 8 Fitzroy Street; Beatrix Whistler dies; Rosalind Birnie Philip becomes his ward
1897 Sets up the Company of the Butterfly to sell his work; paints in Dieppe and Etretat
1898 Elected President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers; teaching school, the Académie Carmen, set up in Paris
1899-1901 Painting trips to France, Holland, Ireland, Algeria and Corsica
1901 Closes Paris house and studio
1902 Leases 74 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea
1903 Awarded honorary doctorate of law by the University of Glasgow; dies at 74 Cheyne Walk, 17 July