James Abbott McNeil Whistler (American,
1834 - 1909)
Nocturne, 1878, lithograph on blue-gray paper
laid down on white wove paper.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler Lithographs from the Steven
L. Block Collection, gift of Steven L. Block, and an
additional gift from Mrs. W. L. Lyons Brown 2004.7.38
In the 1870s James McNeil Whistler made a habit of rowing
along the River Thames in London in the dead of night.
Memorizing the colors, forms and tones of the moonlit
harbors, boats and buildings he would later translate
these impressions into drawings, prints and paintings.
He called this series of works his Nocturnes. These
nighttime views of the River Thames were named after
the quiet, dreamlike musical compositions that were
popular at the time. They were inspired in part by Japanese
woodcut prints of harbors and moonlit scenes. This particular
print was one of Whistler’s earliest lithographs.
He created the subtle gradations in tone by using diluted
washes of tusche, a liquid used in lithography for drawing
and painting. The delicate image almost threatens to
dissolve into abstract forms, but the strength and harmony
of the composition reveals itself through the haze and