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The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  71 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Whistler's Gentle Art, a classic in the literature of insult and denigration, might well be subtitled "The Autobiography of a Hater," for it contains the deadly sarcasm and stinging remarks of one of the wittiest men of the nineteenth century. Whistler not only refused to tolerate misunderstanding by critics and the so-called art-loving public — but launched vicious counte ...more
Paperback, 334 pages
Published June 1st 1967 by Dover Publications
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Despite the fact that James Abbott McNeill Whistler is universally renowned today, complete with portrait of his mother in the Louvre, and works represented in Washington DC's National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, he was once the source of much controversy. Critics like John Ruskin continually implied he was a lazy, untutored painter who produced work of an unrefined (if not incomplete) nature.
Luckily for us, Whistler never took a criticism lying down. In this day and age, he
The artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a superb nasty wit, and though this book is charmingly dated in some ways, one can imagine the pain one suffers who is in his Whistler's critical sight. A friend of Wilde's, and in another line of great dandy literature.
The book is wonderful at times but Whistler's ego is hard on the nerves.
Persephone Abbott
"How to be a Successful Artist to Spite your best Critics" should be the subtitle. My, how Whistler drove the waves. He was relentless in his pursuit of art reviewers. Witty, rancune, it's an enjoyable read of the art of fine distempered correspondence, a great sporting event by all accounts. One wonders if the critics drew straws to see who would have the pleasure of reviewing Whistler's paintings and become the object of the artist's exhibitions.
This collection of criticism, insult and spirited jibes proves Whistler to be a literary genius.

I'd say this is a must read for art history readers, if not for interest in Whistler then at least to wind up critical thinking of art criticism and historicism.
I was sold on this from the moment I read on the back cover that it is "a classic in the literature of insult and denigration." I wish there were more letter collections like this.
I have the old hard cover and the typography is amazing so I'd give that 5 stars. The banter is entertaining and scything especially for art world people. Haven't read the whole book.
I purchased this book following a Whistler exhibition. For anyone who appreciates well-worded, biting criticism, this is a must read.
Kathleen Farrell
I have not read this yet, though I suspect I'll find myself in the black and counting.
Well, one has to start somewhere, doesn't one?
Mar 19, 2008 Kim is currently reading it
just got it from the library.
Tony Gualtieri
Artist bites back!
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