The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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William Eden Nesfield, 1835-1888

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1835.04.02
Place of Birth: Bath, England
Date of Death: 1888.03.25
Place of Death: Brighton


William Eden Nesfield was the son of William Andrews Nesfield.


Nesfield was an architect, designer and painter. He received his education at Eton College, leaving in 1851 to join the architectural office of William Burn in London. Here he met Richard Norman Shaw. Together they became enthusiastic supporters of the Gothic Revival, and in particular of the work of A. W. N. Pugin. Following this he also worked for J. K. Colling and for his uncle Anthony Salvin.

He made trips to the continent in 1857-8 and 1859-61 when he studied examples of both classical and medieval architecture. In 1859 he set up his own architectural practice in Bedford Row, London. He was involved primarily with the designing of country houses eg. the enlargement of Coombe Abbey, Warwickshire, for Lord Craven, a commission for which he engaged Albert Moore as mural painter. From 1863 until 1876 he shared offices with Shaw and was his official partner 1866-9. They developed a style which combined elements of the English vernacular with Japanese ornament. In the late 1860s and early 1870s he helped revive an interest in the Queen Anne style, eg. lodge at Kinmel Park, near Abergele, Clwyd in 1868. Due to overwork and ill health he made an early retirement in the late 1870s and it was at this stage that he married.

Nesfield was friends with a number of prominent artists including Whistler and Moore. When in September 1870 Whistler was worried about the similarity of work that he and Moore were producing, he called on Nesfield to arbitrate. Nesfield diplomatically declared the influence to be reciprocal, Whistler being influenced by Moore's classically draped females, and Moore by Whistler's colour harmonies. He stated that their pictures of women by the seashore were sufficiently different so as not to adversely affect the other's. However, it is notable that Whistler abandoned work on his Six Projects, the scheme which had initiated his concerns.


Nesfield, William Eden, Specimens of Medieval Architecture, London, 1862; Radwinter (ed.), The Letters of William Eden Nesfield to J. F. W. Bullock, London, 1989; Cresswell, H. B., 'William Eden Nesfield', Royal Institute of British Artists Journal, vol. 10, 1903, pp. 396-400; Girouard, M., The Victorian Country House, Oxford, 1971; M. Girouard, Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement, 1860-1900, Oxford, 1977; Aslet, C., 'The Country Houses of W. E. Nesfield', Country Life, vol. 163, 1978, pp. 678-81, 766-69; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; Aslet, Clive, 'William Eden Nesfield', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 22 February 2002).