Whistler was an American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in England. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake”. His signature on many of his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail.
Finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler entitled many of his paintings Arrangements, Harmonies, and Nocturnes, emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (1871), commonly known as Whistler’s Mother, the revered and oft-parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his interactions with leading artists and writers.