Books by Anne Koval

Released: April 1, 1995

A delightful and most welcome contribution to the field of Whistler scholarship and to our knowledge of 19th-century art and culture. The American-born expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler (18341903) has long defied easy categorization. During his lifetime, Whistler bridged the enormously different art worlds of London and Paris. British scholars Anderson and Koval, in their splendid account of Whistler's life and work, situate the artist's achievements within this social and cultural milieu, documenting their subject's relation to the significant artistic currents of the day. In London, as a major proponent of the Aesthetic Movement, he was at theoretical odds with the Victorian mainstream, yet he desperately sought acceptance from the Royal Academy and other official institutions. Whistler found a more receptive atmosphere in Paris, where his friends and supporters included MallarmÇ, Degas, Manet, and Monet. But Whistler, whose art was superficially related to Impressionism, remained somewhat isolated by the uniqueness of his artistic approach. As the title suggests, the intention of the authors is to present a revisionist account of Whistler's life and work. In this they succeed. Previous biographies, as they rightly point out, have been weakened by their focus on mythological accounts of Whistler's life, many perpetuated by the artist himself. While never indulging in trendy psychobiography, Anderson and Koval give us a sense of both the private Whistler and his carefully crafted public persona, candidly discussing the insecure artist's need to edit or alter the facts of his life and his impulse to court public controversy. Ever the PR man, Whistler waged aesthetic battles in the press: His trial with John Ruskin and his falling-out with Oscar Wilde are legendary. This volume, marked by distinguished scholarship, level- headedness, and fine narrative style, goes a long way toward setting the record straight. (24 pages illustrations, 8 in color, not seen) Read full book review >