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Whistler House Museum of Art June 24, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell. This museum contains an impressive collection of 19th and 20th-Century American art, and it is used by the Lowell Art Association for exhibitions that feature local, regional, national and even international artists.

Here are two nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Indiana frontier native George Washington Whistler was hired by Kirk Boott to build the first railroad between Lowell and Boston; he then lived in a Lowell residence that had been set aside for the housing of the chief engineer of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals. During Whistler’s time in Lowell, he designed two locomotives that advanced the state-of-the-art in the American locomotive industry. Whistler would later move his family to Russia when he accepted an assignment by Nicholas I to build the first railroad between Moscow and St. Petersburg; he died of cholera in Russia in 1849.

2. James McNeill Whistler attended West Point for three years, but was forced to leave due to his poor performance in a chemistry class. He then worked for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, where he drew detailed maps of coastlines. This proved to be fairly monotonous, though, and he soon found his true passion while living in Paris and London. Some of his favorite subjects included children, the working class in Paris, and the Thames River. Interestingly, he never claimed Lowell as his birthplace, and he was a bit of a crank – perhaps best exemplified by his book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies; his funeral drew scant attendance.

The museum housed a neat collection of paintings depicting nature scenes from the Merrimack River and Vermont; they were incredibly detailed and life-like. The museum staff were very friendly and informative – especially the director, who shared several tidbits about the surrounding Greek neighborhood and some of the “near-misses” that the museum experienced over the years.

The one quibble that I had was that flies were buzzing around while I viewed the paintings; this proved to be rather annoying.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs and art lovers.



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