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Monday, 11 April 2011

James McNeill Whistler in Lyme Regis

The painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903) was American by birth, but of Scottish and Irish descent, and at the age of 29 he settled in London. He was a gifted artist, equally adept in oil, watercolour, etching and lithograph -- but also a controversial one. In 1877 the critic John Ruskin gave one of Whistler's paintings such a bad review that Whistler sued him for libel. Whistler won the case, but was only awarded a farthing in damages (a farthing was the smallest coin in circulation at the time, worth a quarter of an old penny). Whistler was pleased enough... he wore the farthing on his watch chain!

Whistler visited Lyme Regis in 1895 at the age of 61, and spent the autumn at the Royal Lion Hotel. While in the town he produced a number of lithographs and two famous paintings: The Little Rose of Lyme Regis and The Master Smith of Lyme Regis, both of which are now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A copy of one of Whistler's lithographs is on display in Lyme Regis Museum.

For further information on Lyme's artistic heritage, see Writers and Artists.

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