The Storm, Sunset by James McNeill Whistler

In 1880s Whistler visit Venice and set about discovering its character, heput in a full day of effort, The three-month assignment stretched to fourteen months. During this exceptionally productive period, Whistler finished over fifty etchings, several nocturnes, some watercolors, and over 100 pastels—illustrating both the moods of Venice and its fine architectural details. Furthermore, Whistler influenced the American art community in Venice, they emulated Whistler’s vision of city and later spread his methods and influence back to America.

Title: The Storm, Sunset
Date: 1880
Physical Dimensions: w29.0 x h18.6 cm
Credit Line: Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Artist: James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Type: Drawings
External Link: Harvard Art Museums http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/collections/object/308039
Medium: Pastel on brown wove paper

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Jul 11, 1834 – Jul 17, 1903

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake”. His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality—his art was characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. Finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler entitled many of his paintings “arrangements”, “harmonies”, and “nocturnes”, emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.

James Whistler averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake”. His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality—his art was characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. Finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler entitled many of his paintings “arrangements”, “harmonies”, and “nocturnes”, emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony.

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Whistler’s painting was widely noticed, Countering criticism by traditionalists, his theory that art should be concerned essentially with the arrangement of colors in harmony, not with a literal portrayal of the natural world.Whistler w as exposed to the evolution of Impressionism founded by these artists and that they had seen his nocturnes. Whistler was drifting away from Courbet’s “damned realism”.

Whistler produced numerous etchings, lithographs, and dry-points. His lithographs, some drawn on stone, others drawn directly on “lithographie” paper, are perhaps half as numerous as his etchings.

He worked with great rapidity and long hours, but he used his colours thin and covered the canvas with innumerable coats of paint. The colours increased in depth and intensity as the work progressed.

The etchings include portraits of family, mistresses, and intimate street scenes in London and Venice. At the beginning and end of his career, he placed great emphasis on cleanness of line, though in a middle period he experimented more with inking and the use of plate-tone.