James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born in 1834, Massachusetts, America. Whistler was a painter, primarily based in the United Kingdom, who was known to be averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and he was a leading advocate for ‘art for art’s sake’. Whistler also spent time in France and Russia during his career, and crafted a distinct painting style of his own. Japanese Prints and ceramics became quite an influence and Whistler would often adopt Japanese principles of composition and spatial organisation in his work. Music also heavily featured in Whistler’s work and he would often entitle works using the abstract language of music, calling them symphonies, compositions, harmonies and so on.

Annabel Lee by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Whistler painted a range of subject matter including portraits and landscapes, during the 1860’s Whistler began to focus more heavily on single figure portraits like the one we see above of Annabel Lee. A strong silhouette, elegant contours and delicate variations on one subdued hue or a pair of neighbouring or contrasting hues featured heavily in his works during this period. We can see this quite clearly in Annabel Lee, the beautiful balance between warm oranges and cool blues balance along the strong contours of this woman’s body and the fabric draped over her.

I decided to attempt my own version of Annabel Lee by Whistler. I used water colour to paint this figure, which I have begun to enjoy using more and more. At the beginning of the course I struggled with this particular painting material however as I have practiced using it more often I have begun to understand how to use the paint more effectively. I also used a black fine liner to add back in some of the prominent strong lines as seen in the original which I think has worked quite well.

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