James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth

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9780786710324: James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth

The myth perpetuated throughout Whistler’s life—of a witty, irascible dandy endlessly feuding with the establishment or anyone else who stood in his way—is brought up to date with the treatment of his artistic achievement and extraordinary career in this major biography. From a youth in Tsarist Russia, military training at West Point and a bohemian lifestyle in 1850s Paris, Whistler went on to embody the image of the cosmopolitan artist. His friendships with Courbet, Fantin Latour, Rossetti, Manet, Monet, Degas, Baudelaire, Wilde, and Mallarme mark him as a crucial player in the larger art movements of the nineteenth century and as a pivotal figure between the British and French art scenes. By examining Whistler’s life and work together, Anderson and Koval show this most controversial and accomplished artist to be one of the most remarkable men of his age.This acclaimed biography of the greatest American artist of the nineteenth century includes 24 pages of black-and-white photographs as well as eight pages of full-color illustrations. “Eminently readable ... will surely be considered the standard biography....”—Washington Post Book World (front page) “Likely to be the Whistler biography for some time to come ... a generally absorbing, readable, and informative book.”—ArtNews “Valuable ... does much to separate fact from fantasy.”—New York Review of Books “Extensive and fascinating”—Atlantic Monthly

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From Library Journal:

Of the making of Whistler books there is no end, or so it seems this year. No fewer than six new Whistler titles have appeared by design or coincidentally with major Whistler shows at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) and elsewhere. Here, independent Whistler scholars Anderson and Koval systematically debunk the myths surrounding Whistler's life and work (e.g., the importance of Whistler's American roots), which were spawned by Joseph and Elizabeth Robbin Pennell's sympathetic 1908 biography, The Life of James McNeill Whistler (A.M.S. Pr.). That task aside, they present a well-written, definitive account of the artist, who nonetheless remains an enigma. The book begs for a careful read with frequent sallies forth to the notes and incredibly detailed index, but readers will be rewarded with a thorough understanding of Whistler's noteworthy contributions to the fine and allied arts of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries (his mother's all-too-famous portrait notwithstanding). Strongly recommended for all collections.
P. Steven Thomas, Illinois State Univ., Normal
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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