The Shimmering Hues of Whistler’s Watery Nocturnes

James McNeill Whistler was an American painter who worked mostly in Britain (1834 – 1903). He drew a parallel between music and painting, hence the title ‘Nocturnes’ for this series. The painting of a fireworks display shown above evokes a glorious explosion of sound and melody.  His soft and glowing portrayal of light and water recalls the work of Turner, and pre-empts the Impressionists. Yet his delicate use of colour and composition refers to the Japanese art he was so fond of.

While peace descended upon sleeping cities, Whistler was painting these timeless scenes of the misty (and polluted) moonlit banks of the River Thames and the Seine. They seem to me to be ethereal and feminine, and as fragile as the butterfly he made his signature.

Chopin Nocturne






Whistler’s technique and the way in which he captures light is reminiscent of Turner; and yet Turner’s paintings are imbued with a wild sense of passion, drama and spirituality, whilst Whistler’s are calm, delicate and composed, but equally as beautiful.


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~ by laxshmirose on November 17, 2010.

5 Responses to “The Shimmering Hues of Whistler’s Watery Nocturnes”

  1. Hi Laxshmi, It’s always a treat when a new post of yours pops up in my email. I love the Whistler’s and lots of your other posts too. It so nice to be introduced to pieces of art I haven’t come across before – with you doing all the hard work! Looking forward to the next post…Nancy

  2. Thank you aunty Nancy 🙂 I’m glad you like it! I’ve been a bit slow with it, with all the PhD research, but will carry on! love laxshmi

  3. Hi Laxshmi!!!

    I just loved him! I didn’t know before! The fireworks is one og the most gorgeous watercolor that I saw! Enjoy Brazil! Go the the Modern Museum of Arts in Rio! I hope we will have a post her from there soon! love, Myriam

  4. Hey Lashmi!

    I absolutely loved this post! The paintings are wonderful! Great choice!



  5. I wrote a paper on The Nocturnes in graduate school, and they still just astound me. The negative reception Whistler got for them in his life is so hard for modern viewers to grasp. “Were those people crazy or what?”

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