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The Beggars by James McNeill Whistler (1879-80) antique laid paper trimmed by the artist

Previous exhibitions looked at Whistler and Nature (8 January to 17 March 2019), and The Gentle Art (29 January to 12 May 2019) looked at friends and strangers in Whistler’s prints. Palaces in the Night: The urban landscape in Whistler’s prints (4 June 2019 to 8 September) picks up the story of James Abbott McNeill Whistler's artistic life in Europe, and provides another opportunity to discover the different printing techniques he used, including Burr and Impression as well etchings, drypoint and lithography.

In 1855, at the age of 21, Whistler left America to study art in Paris. He never returned to his homeland but instead settled in London, where he made his name as an artist. Palaces in the Night is devoted to his cityscapes, ranging from the early 'French set' of the 1850s to the late etchings of Brussels and Amsterdam.

The exhibition also offers the opportunity to see a spectacular impression of The Doorway - one of a series of twelve prints known as the ‘First Venice Set’. First etched in 1879-80 and published by The Fine Art Society, Whistler intended to print 100 impressions of The Doorway but by his death in 1903, only 84 had been printed, 16 short! 

The Doorway by Whistler
Whistler’s progression from crisp realism to atmospheric impressionism can be seen in his images of London and the Thames. Nocturne: The River at Battersea, (1878) is a particularly evocative lithotint on display. 

Prints of this date give visual expression to his later, famous Ten O’Clock Lecture of 1885: ‘the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil – and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky – and the tall chimneys become campanile – and the warehouses are palaces in the night – and the whole city hangs in the heavens’.


Image: The Beggars by JAM Whistler (1879-80) antique laid paper trimmed by the artist

Image: The Doorway  by JAM Whistler (1879-80) printed with surface tone and ‘monotype’ wiping in brown ink

Images: © Fitzwilliam Museum

Posted on : 
Monday 13 May 2019