The Doorway

James McNeill Whistler American

Not on view

Richly ornamented panels surround a central void and invite us into the shadowed interior of the Palazzo Gussoni, with a sunlit courtyard glimpsed beyond. This etching belongs to Whistler’s "First Venice Set," and the artist found his subject on the Rio de la Fava canal, east of the Rialto. The dark interior space seems dappled with reflected light shining through a grid that fills the central arch. Close inspection, however, reveals the shapes to be chairs hanging from the ceiling. Whistler undoubtedly planned this coincidence of patterning and avoided clarifying the details. His interest in shifting light led him to devote one-third of the sheet to the foreground canal, where subtly manipulated plate tone contrasts suggested depth with reflected surface.

The Doorway, James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London), Etching, drypoint and roulette, printed in brownish-black ink on ivory laid paper; fourteenth state of twenty (Glasgow)

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