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(b Lowell, Mass., 11 July 1834; d London, 17 July 1903). American painter, printmaker, and designer, active mainly in England. Initially he was called James Abbott Whistler, but after his mother's death in 1881 he added her maiden name to become James Abbott McNeill Whistler for a time, and eventually he dropped the ‘Abbott’. He spent part of his childhood in Russia (where his father had gone to work as a civil engineer) and was an inveterate traveller. His training as an artist began indirectly when, after his discharge from West Point Military Academy for ‘deficiency in chemistry’, he learnt etching as a US navy cartographer. In 1855 he moved to Paris, where he studied intermittently under Gleyre, made copies in the Louvre, acquired a lasting admiration for Velázquez, and became a devotee of the cult of the Japanese print (see Ukiyo-e) and oriental art and decoration in general.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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