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James Abbott McNeill Whistler (July 10, 1834– July 17, 1903) ; American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo "art for art's sake". His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality—his art was characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. Finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler entitled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", and "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), commonly known as Whistler's Mother, the revered and oft-parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.
...He was a regular guest at parties at the American consulate, and with his usual wit, enchanted the guests with verbal flourishes such as "the artist's only positive virtue is idleness—and there are so few who are gifted at it."
...In the final 7 years of his life, Whistler did some minimalist seascapes in watercolor and a final self portrait in oil.... He died in London on July 17, 1903.
Artist James McNeill Whistler once quipped: "I can't tell you if genius is hereditary, because heaven has granted me no offspring." Yet nowhere is Whistler's genius and posterity more evident than in his etchings. Inspired by Rembrandt, Whistler envisioned etching (the process of drawing on and printing from metal plates) not just as a means of making multiple images, but also as a highly sophisticated form of drawing.