I'm probably going to rate this book 5 Stars. I just bought my forth copy of it from this Amazon site. One I kept, two I gave to art gallery owners and the most recent one I shipped to an artist/professional photographer friend who works on an etching project with me.
JM Whistler may not have been a very likeable guy in his day (except it appears to his students/protégés, some of whom seem to have adored him) but this book shows the art talent of the man !
According to the author Whistler was at times a work-alcoholic, at times not well focused and never able to handle money. From contemporary reports he had a high opinion of himself and his work and was pretty contentious and didn't suffer critics in the least.
I very much agree with David Adams above, the pastels are a joy to view. The talent is evident. Whistler cared not at all that art critics didn't accept pastel as an investment/museum grade art medium at the time. If the author, MF MacDonald is to be believed, Whistler came at those critics with both "barrels loaded" ; and I very much believe MacDonald, she supports her claims very well with contemporarys' writings and newspaper excerpts.
It's the etchings that I was after. Whistler gives them in spades. He furthered the art in his methods, materials and his choices of previously unacceptable subject matter in that exotic city of Venice. The images he brought back to London for sale were not expected but seem to have been accepted by the buying public when displayed in the way that Whistler's marketing savvy told him to show them.
Something else that MacDonald gives us in this book that I've never seen before is comparative photographs, many. Fairly current pictures of scenes that Whistler etched or captured in pastel taken from as near as possible the same perspective as he saw them. She also shows some similar images by other artists of the same scene which Whistler portrayed and explains similarities and differences between them. Bravo to her!
I'll admit I'm biased. I'm using this book to learn artistic methods from a man I might not have liked much as a person had we lived at the same time but an extremely talented and very hard working artist nonetheless. Full of himself ......and probably for good reason. Great book !