Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in Chicago's Grant Park, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Recognized for its curatorial efforts and popularity among visitors, the museum hosts 1.5 million guests annually. Its collection, stewarded by 11 curatorial departments, is encyclopedic, includes iconic works such as Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Grant Wood's American Gothic, its permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art is augmented by more than 30 special exhibitions mounted yearly that illuminate aspects of the collection and present cutting-edge curatorial and scientific research. As a research institution, the Art Institute has a conservation and conservation science department, five conservation laboratories, one of the largest art history and architecture libraries in the country—the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries; the growth of the collection has warranted several additions to the museum's original 1893 building, constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition of the same year.
The most recent expansion, the Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano, opened in 2009 and increased the museum's footprint to nearly one million square feet, making it the second-largest art museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Art Institute is associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a leading art school, making it one of the few remaining unified arts institutions in the United States. In 1866, a group of 35 artists founded the Chicago Academy of Design in a studio on Dearborn Street, with the intent to run a free school with its own art gallery; the organization was modeled after European art academies, such as the Royal Academy, with Academicians and Associate Academicians. The Academy's charter was granted in March 1867. Classes started in 1868; the Academy's success enabled it to build a new home for the school, a five-story stone building on 66 West Adams Street, which opened on November 22, 1870. When the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the building in 1871 the Academy was thrown into debt.
Attempts to continue despite the loss by using rented facilities failed. By 1878, the Academy was $10,000 in debt. Members tried to rescue the ailing institution by making deals with local businessmen, before some abandoned it in 1879 to found a new organization, named the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts; when the Chicago Academy of Design went bankrupt the same year, the new Chicago Academy of Fine Arts bought its assets at auction. In 1882, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts changed its name to the current Art Institute of Chicago and elected as its first president the banker and philanthropist Charles L. Hutchinson, who "is arguably the single most important individual to have shaped the direction and fortunes of the Art Institute of Chicago" Hutchinson was a director of many prominent Chicago organizations, including the University of Chicago, would transform the Art Institute into a world-class museum during his presidency, which he held until his death in 1924. In 1882, the organization purchased a lot on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street for $45,000.
The existing commercial building on that property was used for the organization's headquarters, a new addition was constructed behind it to provide gallery space and to house the school's facilities. By January 1885 the trustees recognized the need to provide additional space for the organization's growing collection, to this end purchased the vacant lot directly south on Michigan Avenue; the commercial building was demolished, the noted architect John Wellborn Root was hired by Hutchinson to design a building that would create an "impressive presence" on Michigan Avenue, these facilities opened to great fanfare in 1887. With the announcement of the World's Columbian Exposition to be held in 1892–93, the Art Institute pressed for a building on the lakefront to be constructed for the fair, but to be used by the Institute afterwards; the city agreed, the building was completed in time for the second year of the fair. Construction costs were met by selling the Michigan/Van Buren property. On October 31, 1893, the Institute moved into the new building.
For the opening reception on December 8, 1893, Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed. From the 1900s to the 1960s the school offered with the Logan Family the Logan Medal of the Arts, an award which became one of the most distinguished awards presented to artists in the US. Between 1959 and 1970, the Institute was a key site in the battle to gain art and documentary photography a place in galleries, under curator Hugh Edwards and his assistants; as Director of the museum starting in the early 1980s, James N. Wood conducted a major expansion of its collection and oversaw a major renovation and expansion project for its facilities; as "one of the most respected museum leaders in the country", as described by The New York Times, Wood created major exhibitions of works by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh that set records for attendance at the museum. He retired from the museum in 2004. In 2006, the Art Institute began construction of "The Modern Wing", an addition situated on the southwest corner of Columbus and Monroe.
The project, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, was completed and opened to the public on May 16, 2009. The 264,000-square-foot building makes the Art Institute the second-largest art museum in the United States; the building houses the museum's world-renowned collections of 20th and 21st century art modern European painting and sculpture, contemporary
Jean-Édouard Vuillard was a French painter, decorative artist and printmaker. From 1891 through 1900, he was a prominent member of the Nabis, making paintings which assembled areas of pure color, interior scenes, influenced by Japanese prints, where the subjects were blended into colors and patterns, he was a decorative artist, painting theater sets, panels for interior decoration, designing plates and stained glass. After 1900, when the Nabis broke up, he adopted a more naturalistic style, painting landscapes and interiors with lavish detail, vivid colors. In the 1920s and 1930s he painted portraits of prominent figures in French industry and the arts in their familiar settings. Jean-Édouard Vuillard was born on 11 November 1868 in Cuiseaux. Vuillard's father was a retired captain of the naval infantry, who after leaving the military became a tax collector, his father was 27 years older than his mother, Marie Vuillard, a seamstress. In 1877, after his father's retirement, the family settled in Paris at 18 rue de Chabrol moved to Rue Daunou, in a building where his mother had a sewing workshop.
Vuillard entered a school run by the Marist Brothers. He was awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious Lycée Fontaine, which in 1883 became the Lycée Condorcet. Vuillard studied rhetoric and art, making drawings of works by Michelangelo and classical sculptures. At the Lycée he met several of the future Nabis, including Ker Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, writer Pierre Véber, the future actor and theater director Aurélien Lugné-Poe. In November 1885, when he left the Lycée, he gave up his original idea of following his father in a military career, set out to become an artist, he joined Roussel at the studio of painter Diogène Maillart, in the former studio of Eugene Delacroix on Place Fürstenberg. There and Vuillard learned the rudiments of painting. In 1885 he took courses at the Académie Julian, frequented the studios of the prominent and fashionable painters William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Robert-Fleury. However, he failed in the competitions to enter the École des Beaux-Arts in February and July of 1886 and again in February 1887.
In July 1887, the persistent Vuillard was accepted, was placed in the course of Robert-Fleury in 1888 with the academic history painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. In 1888 and 1889, he pursued his studies in academic art, he painted a self-portrait with his friend Waroquoy, had a crayon portrait of his grandmother accepted for the Salon of 1889. At the end of that academic year, after a brief period of military service, he set out to become an artist. Late in 1889 he began to frequent the meetings the informal group of artists known as Les Nabis, or The prophets, a semi-secret, semi-mystical club which included Maurice Denis and some of his other friends from the Lycée. In 1888 the young painter Paul Serusier, had traveled to Brittany, under the direction of Paul Gauguin, he had made a nearly abstract painting of the seaport, composed of areas of color; this became the first Nabi painting. Serusier and his friend Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Paul Ranson, were among the first Nabis of nabiim, dedicated to transforming art down to its foundations.
In 1890, through Denis, Vuillard became a member of the group, which met in Ransom's studio or in the cafes of the Passage Brady. The existence of the organization was in theory secret, members used coded nicknames, he first began working on theater decoration. He shared a studio at 28 Rue Pigalle with Bonnard with the theater impresario Lugné-Poe, the theater critic Georges Rousel, he designed sets for several works by other symbolist writers. In 1891 he took part in his first exposition with the Nabis at the Chateau of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, he showed two paintings, including The Woman in a Striped Dress. The reviews were good, but the critic of Le Chat Noir wrote of "Works still indecisive, where one finds the features in style, literary shadows, sometimes a tender harmony.". Vuillard began keeping a journal during this time, which records the formation of his artistic philosophy. "We perceive nature through the senses which give us images of forms, colors, etc." he wrote on November 22, 1888, shortly before he became a Nabi.
"A form or a color exists only in relation to another. Form does not exist on its own. We can only conceive of the relations." In 1890 he returned to the same idea: "Let's look at a painting as a set of relations that are detached from any idea of naturalism." The works of Vuillard and the Nabis were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, which were shown in Paris at the gallery of art dealer Siegfried Bing, at a large show at the École des Beaux Arts in 1890. Vuillard himself made a acquired a personal collection of one hundred eighty prints, some of which are visible in the backgrounds of his paintings; the Japanese influence appeared in his work in the negation of depth, the simplicity of forms, contrasting colors. The faces were turned away, drawn with just a few lines. There was no attempt to create perspective. Vegetal and geometric designs in the wallpaper or clothing were more important than the faces. In some of Vuillard's works, the persons in the paintings entirely disappeared into the designs of the wallpaper.
The Japanese influence continued in his works, after the Nabis in the painted screens depicting Place Vintimille he made for Marguerite Chaplin. Another aspect of the
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven by hand on a loom. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are discontinuous, it is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design. Most weavers use a natural warp thread, such as linen or cotton; the weft threads are wool or cotton, but may include silk, silver, or other alternatives. First attested in English in 1467, the word tapestry derives from Old French tapisserie, from tapisser, meaning "to cover with heavy fabric, to carpet", in turn from tapis, "heavy fabric", via Latin tapes, the Latinisation of the Greek τάπης, "carpet, rug"; the earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek, ta-pe-ja, written in the Linear B syllabary. The success of decorative tapestry can be explained by its portability.
Kings and noblemen could transport tapestries from one residence to another. In churches, they were displayed on special occasions. Tapestries were draped on the walls of castles for insulation during winter, as well as for decorative display. In the Middle Ages and renaissance, a rich tapestry panel woven with symbolic emblems, mottoes, or coats of arms called a baldachin, canopy of state or cloth of state was hung behind and over a throne as a symbol of authority; the seat under such a canopy of state would be raised on a dais. The iconography of most Western tapestries goes back to written sources, the Bible and Ovid's Metamorphoses being two popular choices. Apart from the religious and mythological images, hunting scenes are the subject of many tapestries produced for indoor decoration. Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the 3rd century BC; the form reached a new stage in Europe in the early 14th century AD.
The first wave of production occurred in Switzerland. Over time, the craft expanded to France and the Netherlands; the basic tools have remained much the same. In the 14th and 15th centuries, France was a thriving textile town; the industry specialised in fine wool tapestries which were sold to decorate palaces and castles all over Europe. Few of these tapestries survived the French Revolution as hundreds were burnt to recover the gold thread, woven into them. Arras is still used to refer to a rich tapestry no matter. Indeed, as literary scholar Rebecca Olson argues, arras were the most valuable objects in England during the early modern period and inspired writers such as William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser to weave these tapestries into their most important works such as Hamlet and The Faerie Queen. By the 16th century, the towns of Oudenaarde, Brussels and Enghien had become the centres of European tapestry production. In the 17th century, Flemish tapestries were arguably the most important productions, with many specimens of this era still extant, demonstrating the intricate detail of pattern and colour embodied in painterly compositions of monumental scale.
In the 19th century, William Morris resurrected the art of tapestry-making in the medieval style at Merton Abbey. Morris & Co. made successful series of tapestries for home and ecclesiastical uses, with figures based on cartoons by Edward Burne-Jones. Kilims and Navajo rugs are types of tapestry work. In the mid-twentieth century, new tapestry art forms were developed by children at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Harrania, by modern French artists under Jean Lurçat in Aubusson, France. Traditional tapestries are still made at the factory of Gobelins and a few other old European workshops, which repair and restore old tapestries. While tapestries have been created for many centuries and in every continent in the world, what distinguishes the contemporary field from its pre-World War ll history is the predominance of the artist as weaver in the contemporary medium; this trend has its roots in France during the 1950s where one of the "cartoonists" for the Aubusson Tapestry studios, Jean Lurçat spearheaded a revival of the medium by streamlining color selection, thereby simplifying production, by organizing a series of Biennial exhibits held in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Polish work submitted to the first Biennale, which opened in 1962, was quite novel. Traditional workshops in Poland had collapsed as a result of the war. Art supplies in general were hard to acquire. Many Polish artists had learned to weave as part of their art school training and began creating individualistic work by using atypical materials like jute and sisal. With each Biennale the popularity of works focusing on exploring innovative constructions from a wide variety of fiber resounded around the world. There were many weavers in pre-war United States, but there had never been a prolonged system of workshops for producing tapestries. Therefore, weavers in America were self-taught and chose to design as well as weave their art. Through these Lausanne exhibitions, US artists/weavers, others in countries all over the world, were excited about the Polish trend towards experimental forms. Throughout the 1970s all weavers had explored some manner of techniques and materials in vogue at the time.
What this movement contributed to the newly realized field of art weaving, termed "contemporary tapestry", was the option for working
This article concerns the painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant. Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, born Jean-Joseph Constant, was a French painter and etcher best known for his Oriental subjects and portraits. Benjamin-Constant was born in Paris, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse. A journey to Morocco in 1872 influenced his early artistic development and lead him to produce Romantic scenes under the spell of Orientalism. Among his noted works in this vein are Last Rebels, Justice in the Harem, Les Chérifas, Moroccan Prisoners, his large canvas, The Entrance of Mahomet II into Constantinople, received a medal in 1876. After 1880, he changed his manner, devoting himself to portraits. Prominent examples include the great plafond in the Hôtel de Ville, entitled Paris Convening the World, he was distinguished as a portrait painter in England, where he was a favorite of the aristocracy. His portrait Mons fils André was awarded a medal of honor at the Salon in 1896. Benjamin-Constant painted Pope Leo XIII, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, Lord John Lumley-Savile, Henri Blowitz.
He was made a member of the Institute in 1893, was a commander of the Legion of Honor. He visited the United States several times, painted a number of portraits; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns a large mural decoration by Benjamin-Constant entitled Justinian in Council. Benjamin-Constant taught, he was a writer of repute, contributing a number of studies on contemporary French painters. Along with fellow artists, Nasreddine Dinet, Paul Leroy, Jean-Léon Gérôme and curator/ art historian, Léonce Bénédite, he was one of the founders of the Société des Peintres Orientalistes Français, he died in Paris on 26 May 1902. List of Orientalist artists Orientalism Société des Peintres Orientalistes Français Stranahan, Modern French Painters This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.. "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia. New York: Dodd, Mead. Works by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant at the Art Renewal Center
Gertrude Käsebier was an American photographer. She was known for her images of motherhood, her portraits of Native Americans, her promotion of photography as a career for women. Käsebier was born Gertrude Stanton on 18 May 1852 in Fort Des Moines, her father, John W. Stanton, transported a saw mill to Golden, Colorado, at the start of the Pike's Peak Gold Rush of 1859, he prospered from the building boom that followed. In 1860, eight-year-old Stanton traveled with her mother and younger brother to join her father in Colorado; that same year, her father was elected the first mayor of Golden, the capital of the Colorado Territory. After the sudden death of her father in 1864, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where her mother, Muncy Boone Stanton, opened a boarding house to support the family. From 1866-70 Stanton lived in Bethlehem, with her maternal grandmother and attended the Bethlehem Female Seminary. Little else is known about her early years. On her 22nd birthday, in 1874, she married 28-year-old Eduard Käsebier, a financially comfortable and well-placed businessman in Brooklyn.
The couple soon had Frederick William, Gertrude Elizabeth and Hermine Mathilde. In 1884, they moved to a farm in New Durham, New Jersey, to provide a healthier place to raise their children. Käsebier wrote that she was miserable throughout most of her marriage, she said, ``, I want to go to Hell. He was terrible... Nothing was good enough for him." At that time, divorce was considered scandalous, the two remained married while living separate lives after 1880. This unhappy situation served as an inspiration for one of her most strikingly titled photographs – two constrained oxen, entitled Yoked and Muzzled – Marriage. In spite of their differences, her husband supported her financially when she began to attend art school at the age of 37, a time when most women of her day were well-settled in their social positions. Käsebier never indicated what motivated her to study art, but she devoted herself to it wholeheartedly. Over the objections of her husband in 1889, she moved the family back to Brooklyn to attend the newly established Pratt Institute of Art and Design full-time.
One of her teachers there was Arthur Wesley Dow, a influential artist and art educator. He helped promote her career by writing about her work and by introducing her to other photographers and patrons. While at Pratt, Käsebier learned about the theories of Friedrich Fröbel, a 19th-century scholar whose ideas about learning and education led to the development of the first kindergarten, his concepts about the importance of motherhood in child development influenced Käsebier, many of her photographs emphasized the bond between mother and child. She was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movementShe formally studied drawing and painting, but she became obsessed with photography. Like many art students of that time, Käsebier decided to travel to Europe to further her education, she began 1894 by spending several weeks studying the chemistry of photography in Germany, where she was able to leave her daughters with in-laws in Wiesbaden. She spent the rest of the year in France. In 1895, she returned to Brooklyn.
In part because her husband was now quite ill and her family's finances were strained, she determined to become a professional photographer. A year she became an assistant to Brooklyn portrait photographer Samuel H. Lifshey, where she learned how to run a studio and expand her knowledge of printing techniques. However, by this time, she had an extensive mastery of photography. Just one year she exhibited 150 photographs, an enormous number for an individual artist at that time, at the Boston Camera Club; these same photos were shown in February 1897 at the Pratt Institute. The success of these shows led to another at the Photographic Society of Philadelphia in 1897, she lectured on her work there and encouraged other women to take up photography as a career, saying, "I earnestly advise women of artistic tastes to train for the unworked field of modern photography. It seems to be adapted to them, the few who have entered it are meeting a gratifying and profitable success." In 1898, Käsebier watched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe parade past her Fifth Avenue studio in New York City, New York, toward Madison Square Garden.
Her memories of affection and respect for the Lakota people inspired her to send a letter to William “Buffalo Bill” Cody requesting permission to photograph in her studio members of the Sioux tribe traveling with the show. Cody and Käsebier were similar in their abiding respect for Native American culture and maintained friendships with the Sioux. Cody approved Käsebier’s request and she began her project on Sunday morning, April 14, 1898. Käsebier’s project was purely artistic and her images were not made for commercial purposes and were never used in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West program booklets or promotional posters. Käsebier took classic photographs of the Sioux. Chief Iron Tail and Chief Flying Hawk were among Käsebier’s most challenging and revealing portraits. Käsebier's photographs are preserved at the National Museum of American History's Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Käsebier’s session with Iron Tail was her only recorded story: “Preparing for their visit to Käsebier’s photography studio, the Sioux at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Camp met to distribute their finest clothing and accessories to those chosen to be photographed.”
Käsebier admired their efforts, but des
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne's repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are characteristic and recognizable, he used planes of small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne's intense study of his subjects. Cézanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne "is the father of us all." The Cézannes came from the commune of Saint-Sauveur. Paul Cézanne was born on 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence. On 22 February, he was baptized in the Église de la Madeleine, with his grandmother and uncle Louis as godparents, became a devout Catholic in life, his father, Louis Auguste Cézanne, a native of Saint-Zacharie, was the co-founder of a banking firm that prospered throughout the artist's life, affording him financial security, unavailable to most of his contemporaries and resulting in a large inheritance.
His mother, Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert, was "vivacious and romantic, but quick to take offence". It was from her that Cézanne got his vision of life, he had two younger sisters and Rose, with whom he went to a primary school every day. At the age of ten Cézanne entered the Saint Joseph school in Aix. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon in Aix, where he became friends with Émile Zola, in a less advanced class, as well as Baptistin Baille—three friends who came to be known as "les trois inséparables", he stayed there for six years. In 1857, he began attending the Free Municipal School of Drawing in Aix, where he studied drawing under Joseph Gibert, a Spanish monk. From 1858 to 1861, complying with his father's wishes, Cézanne attended the law school of the University of Aix, while receiving drawing lessons. Going against the objections of his banker father, he committed himself to pursuing his artistic development and left Aix for Paris in 1861, he was encouraged to make this decision by Zola, living in the capital at the time.
His father reconciled with Cézanne and supported his choice of career. Cézanne received an inheritance of 400,000 francs from his father, which rid him of all financial worries. In Paris, Cézanne met the Impressionist Camille Pissarro; the friendship formed in the mid-1860s between Pissarro and Cézanne was that of master and disciple, in which Pissarro exerted a formative influence on the younger artist. Over the course of the following decade their landscape painting excursions together, in Louveciennes and Pontoise, led to a collaborative working relationship between equals. Cézanne's early work is concerned with the figure in the landscape and includes many paintings of groups of large, heavy figures in the landscape, imaginatively painted. In his career, he became more interested in working from direct observation and developed a light, airy painting style. In Cézanne's mature work there is the development of a solidified architectural style of painting. Throughout his life he struggled to develop an authentic observation of the seen world by the most accurate method of representing it in paint that he could find.
To this end, he structurally ordered. His statement "I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums", his contention that he was recreating Poussin "after nature" underscored his desire to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition. Cézanne was interested in the simplification of occurring forms to their geometric essentials: he wanted to "treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone". Additionally, Cézanne's desire to capture the truth of perception led him to explore binocular vision graphically, rendering different, yet simultaneous visual perceptions of the same phenomena to provide the viewer with an aesthetic experience of depth different from those of earlier ideals of perspective, in particular single-point perspective, his interest in new ways of modelling space and volume derived from the stereoscopy obsession of his era and from reading Hippolyte Taine’s Berkelean theory of spatial perception. Cézanne's innovations have prompted critics to suggest such varied explanations as sick retinas, pure vision, the influence of the steam railway.
Cézanne's paintings were shown in the first exhibition of the Salon des Refusés in 1863, which displayed works not accepted by the jury of the official Paris Salon. The Salon rejected Cézanne's submissions every year from 1864 to 1869, he continued to submit works to the Salon until 1882. In that year, through the intervention of fellow artist Antoine Guillemet, he exhibited Portrait de M. L. A. Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne, The Artist's Father, Reading "L'Événement", 1866, his first and last successful submission to the Salon. Before 1895 Cézanne exhibited twice with the Impressionists. In years a few individual paintings were shown at various venues, unti
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, 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 is characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative, he found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is Arrangement in Black No. 1 known as Whistler's Mother, the revered and 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. James Abbott Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 11, 1834, the first child of Anna McNeill Whistler and George Washington Whistler, the brother of Confederate surgeon Dr. William McNeill Whistler.
His father was a railroad engineer, Anna was his second wife. James lived the first three years of his life in a modest house at 243 Worthen Street in Lowell; the house is now the Whistler House Museum of a museum dedicated to him. He claimed St. Petersburg, Russia as his birthplace during the Ruskin trial: "I shall be born when and where I want, I do not choose to be born in Lowell."The family moved from Lowell to Stonington, Connecticut in 1837, where his father worked for the Stonington Railroad. Three of the couple's children died in infancy during this period, their fortunes improved in 1839 when his father became chief engineer for the Boston & Albany Railroad, the family built a mansion in Springfield, Massachusetts where the Wood Museum of History now stands.) They lived in Springfield until they left the United States in late 1842. Nicholas I of Russia learned of George Whistler's ingenuity in engineering the Boston & Albany Railroad, he offered him a position in 1842 engineering a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow, the family moved from to St. Petersburg in the winter of 1842/43.
Whistler was a moody child prone to fits of temper and insolence, he drifted into periods of laziness after bouts of illness. His parents discovered that drawing settled him down and helped focus his attention. In years, he played up his mother's connection to the American South and its roots, he presented himself as an impoverished Southern aristocrat, although it remains unclear to what extent he sympathized with the Southern cause during the American Civil War, he adopted his mother's maiden name. Beginning in 1842, his father was employed to work on a railroad in Russia. After moving to St. Petersburg to join his father a year the young Whistler took private art lessons enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Arts at age eleven; the young artist followed the traditional curriculum of drawing from plaster casts and occasional live models, reveled in the atmosphere of art talk with older peers, pleased his parents with a first-class mark in anatomy. In 1844, he met the noted artist Sir William Allan, who came to Russia with a commission to paint a history of the life of Peter the Great.
Whistler's mother noted in her diary, "the great artist remarked to me'Your little boy has uncommon genius, but do not urge him beyond his inclination.'"In 1847-48, his family spent some time in London with relatives, while his father stayed in Russia. Whistler's brother-in-law Francis Haden, a physician, an artist, spurred his interest in art and photography. Haden took Whistler to visit collectors and to lectures, gave him a watercolor set with instruction. Whistler was imagining an art career, he began to collect books on art and he studied other artists' techniques. When his portrait was painted by Sir William Boxall in 1848, the young Whistler exclaimed that the portrait was "very much like me and a fine picture. Mr. Boxall is a beautiful colourist... It is a beautiful creamy surface, looks so rich." In his blossoming enthusiasm for art, at fifteen, he informed his father by letter of his future direction, "I hope, dear father, you will not object to my choice." His father, died from cholera at the age of forty-nine, the Whistler family moved back to his mother's hometown of Pomfret, Connecticut.
His art plans remained vague and his future uncertain. The family managed to get by on a limited income, his cousin reported that Whistler at that time was "slight, with a pensive, delicate face, shaded by soft brown curls... he had a somewhat foreign appearance and manner, aided by natural abilities, made him charming at that age." Whistler was sent to Christ Church Hall School with his mother's hopes that he would become a minister. Whistler was without his sketchbook and was popular with his classmates for his caricatures. However, it became clear that a career in religion did not suit him, so he applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his father had taught drawing and other relatives had attended, he was admitted to the selective institution in July 1851 on the strength of his family name, despite his extreme nearsightedness and poor health history. However, during his three years there, his grades were satisfactory, he was a sorry sight at drill and dress, known as "Curly" for his hair length which exceeded regulations.
Whistler bucked authority, spouted sarcastic comments, racked up deme