The American artist, known simply as Whistler, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts near Boston. He had travelled as a youth with his engineer father, living both in Russia and in England.In 1855 he went as a student to Paris, where he met Degas, and was greatly influenced by Courbet.
By the time he came to spend the April-May of 1884 in St Ives, he was already well-known, even 'infamous', considered highly eccentric, for the 1878 quarrel with Ruskin, leading to the trial which left him with 1 farthing damages. Staying at 14 Barnoon Terrace, one of the friends he brought with him was Walter Richard SICKERT. Another was Mortimer Luddington MENPES.
In the WCAA, gifted from another artist's library is the 1904 reprint (Third Edition of the book narrating the quarrel and other side issues first printed in 1890) of the 'pirated copy of Mr Whistler's collected writings' entitled The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (Subtitled 'As pleasingly exemplified in many instances, wherein the serious ones of this earth, carefully exasperated, have been prettily spurred on to unseemliness and indiscreation, while overcome by an undue sense of right').
In 1984 a mini-festival was held in St Ives marking the centenary of the visit and offering exhibitions, recitals, plays and poetry. A lecture on 'Whistler and St Ives' was given by artist Roy RAY at the St Ives Arts Club.