James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American painter and printmaker. While the artist was born in Massachusetts, he often claimed St. Petersburg, Russia to be his adopted birthplace since he spent many childhood years there. Whistler also spent time in London before returning to the United States to study at West Point. It was after college that Whistler discovered his love for etching while working as a draftsman for a U.S. mapping company. Whistler’s U.S. employment did not last long and in 1855 he left for Paris to foster his career as an artist.
Limehouse. 1859. Etching. Toledo Museum
The Traghetto No. 2. 1880. Etching
A few years after moving back to Europe, Whistler created a series of etchings referred to as the “ French Set.” It was through these prints that Whistler proved his talent as an artist and a printmaker. A year after the “French Set” Whistler released the “Thames Set,” a series of etchings set in his new home, London. Though Whistler is best known for his etchings, he also produced a number of lithographs and drypoint prints. Whistler’s prints often depict river scenes, boats or portraits.
Nocturne. Etching and Drypoint. 1879-80
Mortimer Menpes. Etching. 1885
The Little Pool. 1861. Etching. The National Gallery
Whistler’s earlier prints focus on line-work and precision, while his later prints have more in common with his “tonalist” paintings. Whistler famously created the Nocturnes, which are paintings and prints set at night.