FROM THE ARCHIVES – WHISTLER’S TALENT AT THE AGE OF FOUR

17-JUN-2019

JMW
This week, the Winsor & Newton archives have yielded a most delightful cutting about the famous James McNeill Whistler, dating back to 1954. Based primarily in the UK, this American artist was one of the leading proponents of ‘art for art’s sake’ – taken from the French nineteenth century slogan: l’art pour l’art. The phrase expresses a belief that the only intrinsic value of art – the only ‘true’ art – is independent from any moral or utilitarian function, or any ulterior motive.

Of course, such philosophical discourse would have been a mystery to the four year old Whistler. Nevertheless, it’s said his aptitude for drawing was apparent at the tender age of two when he was found underneath a dressing table, pencil in hand. Asked what he was doing, the little boy replied, ‘I’se drawrin’,’ and so began an illustrious career. His earliest known work, a duck created when he was four, is shown here and is reproduced in the archive cutting.

You can’t imagine how proud we are that such an outstanding talent went on to become an avid admirer of Winsor & Newton. To this very day, the Tate Britain houses work that Whistler created using our materials. They still look magnificent because we craft our paints to stand the test of time and we want every artist to be confident their work will be enjoyed by generations to come.

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