I just finished the 2014 biography of James Abbott McNeil Whistler “A Life for Art’s Sake” by Daniel E. Sutherland and it was terrific! More than anyone else, Whistler freed art from moralizing, story-telling, narrative and historical subject matter and coined the term “Art for art’s sake” with the artist focused instead on creating works of beauty through arrangements of forms and color harmonies. His lack of interest in subjects as a literal representation informed his naming practices, borrowing from music for painting titles that used words like “Nocturne”, Symphony” and “Arrangement”. So, in a sense he was one of the first to think abstractly about the making of art. He was born an American but spent his adult life in England and France. And he knew everyone in the art worlds of both countries. The book reads like a who’s who of the time, from the 1870s to the beginning of the 20th century (he died in 1903). Five stars and a big thumb’s up! The book is available new or used from Amazon.
Categories: Book reviews