James Abbott McNeill Whistler (Born 1834) was an American-born artist who’s noted for his stylistically advanced and striking full-length portraits, for his paintings of nocturnal London and for his brilliant lithographs and etchings. Whistler was an articulate theorist about art; he did much to introduce modern French painting into England. As a boy Whistler spent some time at St. Petersburg in Russia, where his father was a civil engineer. By 1849 he was back in the United States after a short stay in England. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, but he soon abandoned the army for art. He was fascinated by Paris, where he arrived in 1855 to study painting and soon adopted a Bohemian lifestyle.
Whistler was drawn to the French modern movement, and he responded to the realism associated with the painters François Bonvin, Henri Fantin-Latour, and Gustave Courbet, all of whom he knew. The realistic nature of his art can be seen in such early works as the Twelve Etchings from Nature and Self-Portrait. During the 1860s he moved between Paris and England; he also visited Brittany and the coast near Biarritz in 1861 and 1862 respectively, where he painted with Courbet and developed that love of the sea that was to mark a number of his later watercolors and small oil studies. Whistler settled in London in 1863, where he found amiable themes on the River Thames. When the etchings that he did of such subjects were exhibited in Paris, they garnered praise from the critic and poet Charles Baudelaire.