A new exhibition of prints from the Toledo Museum of Art
s collection spotlights the work of iconic American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).
Although perhaps more popularly known today as a painter, Whistler was a master of the etched line. "Whistler: Influences, Friends and the Not-So-Friendly", on view Feb. 26 through May 30, 2010 in the Museums Works on Paper Galleries, provides a comparison of the great American artist with his contemporaries as well as a look at what influenced his work.
As a printmaker, Whistlers name is often linked with Rembrandts as the artist who, 200 years later, further explored and refined the beauty of the etched line. The artist spent most of his life in London, and was greatly influenced by that city as well as by Paris. He proved to be an innovative, master craftsman with few peers, then or now.
Tom Loeffler, the Museums assistant curator of works on paper, says Whistler himself never drew a distinction between his efforts as a painter and his work as a printmaker.
His entire life was an involved mixture of art, entertainment, sharp wit, impetuous temper, dandyism, imagined offenses, egoism and self-doubt, calculation and genius, Loeffler says. It is hard to present his etchings and lithographs without considering his paintings and complex personality.
Whistler etched, rather than painted, when his finances were in trouble because he was more successful in selling his etchings, Loeffler notes. One reason we have his Venice prints is because he needed to raise money and he stayed in Venice longer than he originally intended to work, Loeffler says.
The skilled craftsman also was a master of the gentle art of making enemies. To fully understand Whistlers work, the viewer must consider the impact of the peopleboth friends and those he alienatedaround him. This new exhibition of approximately 120 works enables us to do just that.
Along with more than 60 prints by Whistler, the Toledo exhibition will feature works by Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836-1904), Sir Francis Seymour Haden (British, 1818-1910), Charles Émile Jacque (French, 1813-1894), Alphonse Legros (French, 1837-1911), Charles Meryon (French, 1821-1868) and Joseph Pennell (American, 1860-1926).