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London Census Case Study

James Whistler

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James Abbot McNeill Whistler, born in 1834 in Massachusetts, came to London in 1858 after studying art in Paris.

Witty, flamboyant and extravagant, he became a fixture of London society and the contemporary art scene after exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1860. He delighted in the city, finding inspiration both for his gritty etchings of London's dockyards, showing the reality of London's shipping industry, and for his romantic, atmospheric oil paintings of the Thames and its bridges.

He moved a great deal around London, and lived in Wapping and Rotherithe while producing his etchings, to better observe the areas.

Throughout the 1860s his output changed dramatically, as he developed a decorative and vivid style which eventually ensured him lasting recognition, although it was poorly received at the time. In fact, Whistler is famous for winning a court case against the critic John Ruskin, who with typical acidity declared Whistler’s Nocturne in Red and Gold little more than “flinging a pot of paint in the face of the public”; after which Whistler was left bankrupt and moved to Venice to be with his then- mistress.

He returned to London in 1880, exhibiting with greater success; and lived in Hampstead with his wife Beatrix until her death in 1896.

Here on the 1861 census we can see him living at 15 Hemus Terrace, Chelsea aged 26, with his father William as his lodger.

He died at 74 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea in 1903.

extract from the 1861 census page

To view the full page (in Acrobat format), click here.

If you have no idea where your ancestors lived you can use the search tools at www.TheGenealogist.co.uk which allows you to search across all of England and Wales.

Find out more about the UK Census and life in Britain in 1861 on the UK 1861 Census website:

UK 1861 Census
www.UK1861Census.com

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