JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER (1834-1903) James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born of Scottish-Irish ancestry. As a boy he spent some time in Russia at St. Petersburg, but he was back in the United States by 1849. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, but he soon abandoned the army for art. Like many of his compatriots he was fascinated by Paris, where he arrived in 1855 to study painting and soon adopted a Bohemian lifestyle. Whistler won considerable success in Paris, where he was attracted to the Pre-Raphaelite movement that began in England in 1848. One of his chief claims to fame was his delight in the Japanese arts—then an avant-garde taste that, significantly, was to have many followers in his own country. The 1860s and ’70s were especially creative for Whistler. It was then when he began to give musical titles to his paintings and became preoccupied by the problems of portrait painting. Those paintings underline his aestheticism in a liking for simple forms and muted tones and dependence on the 17th-century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Despite winning a libel suit against a writer, he declared bankruptcy and went to Venice. He seldom painted in oils there, instead producing pastels and watercolors. His etchings won him success in London when they were exhibited upon his return in 1880, and in 1883. By the 1890s, Impressionism was a dominant style, but Whistler never used the radiant colors or technique of the Impressionists. He was happiest in painting small studies of townscapes and seascapes that reflected the influence of 19th-century French painter Camille Corot. When his wife, Beatrix, died in 1896, Whistler grieved deeply. Although he kept in touch with his contemporaries and ran an art school in Paris, his productive period was over.