Nocturne, Grey and Gold James Whistler Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Nocturne, Grey and Gold by James Abbott McNeill Whistler was painted circa 1871-72. It's an oil on canvas depicting a London river Thames scene from Westminster Bridge, with the docks and crane in the far distance.

Described by the artist as 'an arrangement of light, form and colour.' It is a view of the Thames from Westminster Bridge looking upriver towards Chelsea, London. It measures: framed: 710 x 864 x 75 mm; unframed: 475 mm x 630 mm. The artist described it to the Liverpool collector Alfred Chapman as: 'A very warm summer night on the Thames : A Nocturne in blue and gold and a view of the river from the Houses of Parliament.'

You can see two square towers of the Houses of Parliament on the right-hand side. At the far left of the painting, on the south side of the river, is a factory chimney. There are some dark buildings all along the riverside. You can also see a line of lights, reflecting in the water, depicting the industrial side of Lambeth. In the distance, on both sides of the river you can see more chimneys and at right hand side, the docks with a crane. The painting was damaged in an accident in 1892 and a hole had to be repaired by Stephen Richards. It stayed in one family until about 1920, it wasn’t seen for eight years. It turned up at an auction in London in 1928 and was bought by the great Glasgow collector Sir William Burrell and gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1944 It is currently in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

Now thought of as one of Whistler great works, it was once described as a mere 'scene on the river,' by art critic John Ruskin, who, brought up in a strict Victorian regime, had difficulty accepting the new style of painting. In 1877, Whistler took Ruskin to court over other remarks made by him over another painting: Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket. 'for having the impudence of asking two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.' Art dealer Oswald Bernard Colnaghi was prepared to witness on Whistler's behalf at the trial, telling Whistler's lawyer, James Anderson Rose that it was an 'almost extraordinary and wonderful picture,' and a 'transcript of nature.' Unfortunately Colnaghi failed to testify. Luckily, Whistler won his case.

Those who particularly appreciate Nocturne, Grey and Gold by James Abbott McNeill Whistler should also take the time to check out Claude Monet's work in London, including works such as Houses of Parliament and Charing Cross Bridge, London.