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Stillman, William James

STILLMAN, WILLIAM JAMES (1828-1901), American painter and journalist, was born at Schenectady, New York, on the 1st of June 1828. His parents were Seventh-Day Baptists, and his early religious training 'influenced him all though his life. He was sent to school in New York by his mother, who made great sacrifices that he might get an education, and he graduated at Union College, Schenectady, in 1848. He studied art under Frederick E. Church and early in 1850 went to England, where he made the acquaintance of Ruskin, whose Modern Painters he had devoured, was introduced to Turner, for whose works he had unbounded admiration, and fell so much under the influence of Rossetti and Millais that on his return home in the same year he speedily became known as the " American Pre-Raphaelite. " In 1852 Kossuth sent him on a fool's errand to Hungary to dig up crown jewels, which had been buried secretly during the insurrection of 1848-1849. While he was awaiting a projected rising in Milan, Stillman studied art under Yvon in Paris, and then, as the rising did not take place, he returned to the United States and devoted himself to landscape painting on Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks and in New York City, where he started the Crayon. It numbered Lowell, Aldrich and Charles Eliot Norton among its contributors, and when it failed for want of funds, Stillman removed to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There he passed several years, but a fit of restlessness started him off once more to England. He renewed his friendship with Ruskin, and went with him to Switzerland to paint and draw in the Alps, where he worked so assiduously that his eyesight was affected. He then lived in Paris and was in Normandy in 1861 when the American Civil War broke out. He made more than one attempt to serve in the Northern ranks, but his health was too weak; in the same year he was appointed United States consul in Rome. In 1865 a dispute with his government led to his resignation, but immediately afterwards he was appointed to Crete, where, as an avowed champion of the Christians in the island and of Cretan independence, he was regarded with hostility both by the Mussulman population and by the Turkish authorities, and in September 1868 he resigned and went to Athens, where his first wife (a daughter of David Mack of Cambridge) , worn out by the excitement of life in Crete, committed suicide. He was an editor of Scribner's Magazine for a short time and then went to London, where he lived with D. G. Rossetti. In 1871 he married a daughter of Michael Spartali, the Greek consul-general. When the insurrection of 1875 broke out in Herzegovina he went there as a correspondent of The Times, and his letters from the Balkans aroused so much interest that the British government was induced to lend its countenance to Montenegrin aspirations. In 1877-1883 he served as the correspondent of The Times at Athens; in 1886- 1898 at Rome. He was a severe critic of Italian statesmen, and embroiled himself at various times with various politicians, from Crispi downwards. After his retirement he lived in Surrey, where he died on the 6th of July 1901. He wrote The Cretan Insurrection of 1866-1868 (1874). On the Track of Ulysses (1888), Billy and Hans (1897) and Francesco Crispi (1899).

See his Autobiography of a Journalist (2 vols., Boston, 1901).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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