The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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William Wetmore Story, 1819-1895

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1819.02.12
Place of Birth: Salem
Date of Death: 1895.10.09
Place of Death: Vallambrosa, Italy


William Wetmore Story was a sculptor and writer, the son of Joseph Story (d. 1845), Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He had three children, all of whom turned to careers in the arts: Edith Marion (1844-1907), the Marchesa Peruzzi de' Medici, was a writer; Waldo (1855-1915) was a sculptor; and Julian Russell (1857-1919) was a painter.


Story was educated at Harvard and practised law in Boston, where he also became known as an art critic, poet and literary editor. He was part of an elite circle that included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Allston and James Russell Lowell. A commission to produced a memorial statue for his father in 1845, marked his turn to sculpture (Joseph Story, 1854, marble, Cambridge, MA).

He was primarily known for his over life-size mythological and biblical figures in melancholic poses which showed a concern for archaeological correctness (e.g. Libyan Sibyl, 1861, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). His work was shown at the London Internation Exhibition in 1862 and was favourably reviewed. Story's dramatic and psychological approach to sculpture was greatly influenced by the theories of his friend Robert Browning.

JW was friendly with Story's son Waldo, and as President of the Royal Society of British Artists, proposed him as a member in 1887. He was also responsible for Waldo joining the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. Around 1883 JW painted a portrait of Story's daughter-in-law Maud, Portrait of Mrs Waldo Story (YMSM 251).


Story, William Wetmore, Conversations in a Studio, Boston, 1890; Story, W. W., Excursions in Art and Letters, Boston, 1891.

Phillips, M., Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story, the American Sculptor and Author, Chicago, 1897; James, H., William Wetmore Story and his Friends, 2 vols, London, 1903; Gerdts, W., 'William Wetmore Story', American Art Journal, vol. 4, 1972, pp. 16-33; Seidler, J., A Critical Reappraisal of the Career of William Wetmore Story, American Sculptor and Man of Letters, dissertation, Boston University, MA, 1985; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Ramirez, Jan Seidler, 'William Wetmore Story', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 1 May 2002).