Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water (1872)

Whistler, James Abbott McNeill (1834-1903)

Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water
Oil on canvas, 51 × 76.7 cm
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago

In the early 1870s James McNeill Whistler took a radical step toward abstraction with his Nocturnes series. In keeping with his art-for-art’s-sake creed, these works capture the stillness of evening while evoking the artistry of music. Unlike his earlier marine paintings, the subject of this work—an inlet along the English Channel near Southampton—is obscured by the approaching night. Large shipping vessels appear as ghostly shapes, reduced to shadowy forms by the deepening twilight, while the only points of brightness come from the subtle reflections of lights and the fragmented orb of the moon. The setting thus serves primarily as a vehicle for Whistler’s interest in the tonal harmonies of darkness. (AIC)

See also:

Southampton (England)