WHISTLER, James Abbott McNeill (1834-1903)
Plaque erected in 1925 by London County Council at 96 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, SW10 0DQ, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
JAMES ABBOTT MCNEILL WHISTLER Painter and Etcher (1834-1903) Lived here
The painter and etcher James Abbott McNeill Whistler was one of Chelsea’s most flamboyant characters. He is honoured with an elaborate glazed-ware plaque at 96 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea.
NUMBER 96 CHEYNE WALK
An American by birth, Whistler came to London in 1859 and lived in the capital for much of the remainder of his life. Of his various addresses – several in Chelsea – number 96 (formerly 2 Lindsey Row) was the most significant: it was his home from late 1866 until October 1878 and was where he held his Sunday ‘breakfasts’, attended by fellow artists. The art critic WM Rossetti wrote of the house in his diary:
There are some fine old fixtures, such as doors, fireplaces, and Whistler has got up the rooms with many delightful Japanesisms.
Whistler took pains over the house’s interior decoration, and – assisted by Walter Greaves and his brother Henry – painted murals in the stairway and in some of the rooms.
His studio, to the rear of the second floor, was depicted in the background of paintings such as the famous portrait of his mother, Arrangement in Grey and Black (1871–2). Among other works completed at number 96 were Symphony in White No. III (1867) and the series of Thames Nocturnes.
When the artist left number 96 he was deeply in debt and already involved in a dispute with John Ruskin, who had denounced one of his Nocturnes as a ‘pot of paint flung in the public face’. The legal action Whistler vs Ruskin reached court in November 1878, by which time Whistler was living at the White House in nearby Tite Street, designed for him by EW Godwin. Whistler died at 74 Cheyne Walk, the address to which he had moved from Paris the previous year.