Books: Readings of the Season

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There were two James McNeill Whistlers. One was the artist of the putdown. Oscar Wilde: "I wish I'd said that." Whistler: "You will, Oscar, you will." The other was the artist of subtle landscapes and unprecedented arrangements of color and light. The wit was amply recorded in his autobiography The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.

The innovator is revealed in The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler (Yale; two volumes; $150). In a way, these volumes, edited by four art historians, represent the truest kind...

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