Born in New England, Whistler studied painting in Paris and then based himself in London. There he demonstrated that making prints could be as serious an artistic pursuit as painting. Representing the river Thames, then the lagoons of Venice, Whistler developed subtle tonal variations that alluded dreamily to a triumph of water and air over substance. In this early lithograph, Whistler worked directly on the stone (rather than using transfer paper), applying washes of ink to achieve striking atmospheric effects. The artist printed this river subject in 1878, the year in which his libel case against the art critic John Ruskin—involving Ruskin's attack on one of Whistler's painted "Nocturnes"—was heard. Though Whistler won the case, the court costs forced him to declare bankruptcy in the following year.
Signature: In the stone: butterfly monogram, lower right
Harris Brisbane Dick; Vendor: Dick Estate, U.S. Trust
Way 5; Chicago 8 ii/ii; Levy 10-11
Thomas Robert Way Mr. Whistler's Lithographs: The Catalogue. George Bell & Sons, London, 1896, cat. no. 5.
Mervyn Levy Whistler Lithographs An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonné. Jupiter Books, London, 1975, cat. no. 10, 11.
Katharine A. Lochnan, Dr. Martha Tedeschi, Harriet K. Stratis, Nesta R. Spink The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler Volumes I and II. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1998, cat. no. I.63.8 ii/ii.
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London)Date: 1854–55Medium: Brown and black ink and graphite on dark off-white-tan
wove paperAccession: 1970.121.36 versoOn view in:Not on view
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London)Date: 1854–55Medium: Drawings in pen and ink, graphite, gouache, and black chalk on off-white and toned wove and laid paperAccession: 1970.121.50 versoOn view in:Not on view