Artist: James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London)
Date: ca. 1870–80
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 27 x 53 1/8 in. (68.6 x 134.9 cm)
Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1912
Accession Number: 12.32
The progressive expatriate James McNeill Whistler is associated with the "art for art’s sake" philosophy, which privileged artistic form over content. Yet his subjects were often seen to be as radical as his ethereal color harmonies. In this so-called nocturne, painted in London’s Cremorne Gardens (near his Chelsea home-studio), Whistler explores the theme of modern life embraced by many of his European associates, especially the French Impressionists. An elegant, manicured park that drew fashionable strollers during the daytime hours, the Gardens at night became a site for lively music, dancing, and fireworks, frequented by a broader range of classes.