James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler is one of the first and most illustrious artists to show in our galleries. As a painter in oils and in watercolour, as an etcher and a lithographer, Whistler excelled. He also made a stand for the cause of art for art’s sake, and this cost him dear. Although he won the case, he was bankrupted by the costs of his libel action against the critic John Ruskin. Ruskin had complained about Whistlers Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, saying I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.’ Whistler was incensed and decided to sue Ruskin for libel. Although he had lost many of his possessions, he was still much adored by his colleagues and friends. This included our first managing director and gallery manager: Marcus B. Huish and Ernest Brown, who agreed to finance Whistler’s stay in Venice to work on a set of twenty etchings exclusively for The Fine Art Society.