Chronology1834 James Abbott Whistler born in Lowell, Massachusetts, 11 July. 1843 Family moves to St Petersburg, Russia, where his father has been a civil engineer on the railway from St Petersburg to Moscow since 1842. 1845-6 Attends drawing lessons at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg. 1848 Travels to London with mother and brother and attends school near Bristol. 1849 Stays with the Hadens in London.
Father dies and rest of family move to London, and then to Connecticut, United States. 1851 Enters United states Military Academy at West Point.
Adds his mother’s maiden name, McNeill, to his name. 1854 Discharged from West Point although top of his class in drawing.
Appointed to the drawing division of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, Washington, DC, where he etches maps and plans. 1855 Leaves New York for England and stays with the Hadens in London.
Travels to Paris and registers at the Ecole Imperiale et Spéciale de Dessin. 1856 Enters the studio of Charles Gleyre. 1858 Goes on etching tour of Northern France, Luxembourg and Rhineland with artist friend, Ernest Delannoy.
‘The French Set’; published in Paris and London. 1862 Moves to London. 1871 ‘The Thames Set’; published in London. 1878 Libel action against John Ruskin, as a result of which he awarded a farthing’s damages without costs and faces financial ruin. 1879 Declared bankrupt.
Commissioned by The Fine Art Society to go to Venice. 1880 Returns from Venice to London.
The Fine Art Society publishes and exhibits ‘The First Venice Set’. 1882 Walter Sickert leaves the Slade School of art to become Whistler’s pupil and assistant. 1883 Exhibition of a larger selection of the Venice etchings at The Fine Art Society. 1886 ‘The Second Venice Set’; published by Dowdeswells’ in London. 1887 Visits Belgium and Holland, resulting in a series of etchings of Brussels. 1888 Marries Beatrice Godwin, widow of the architect, Edward W. Godwin, and travels on honeymoon to Paris, and the Loire, resulting in a series of etchings.
Teaches his wife to etch. 1889 Spends two months in Amsterdam, resulting in his last major set of etchings. 1892 Moves to Paris. 1895 Travels with Beatrice to Lyme Regis, Dorset, where he works on etchings, lithographs and paintings. 1896 Stays at several addresses in London.
Beatrice is gravely ill, and dies of cancer in May. Whistler adopts her sister Rosalind Birnie Philip as his ward and makes her his executrix. Falls out with Sickert and with the printer Thomas R. Way. 1901 Stays in Ajaccio, Corsica, making etchings, drawings and paintings. 1902 Moves back to Chelsea and lives there with the Birnie Philips’. 1903 Dies 17 July.
Buried in Chiswick Cemetery.