About This Artwork

James McNeill Whistler
American, 1834–1903

Trouville (Grey and Green, the Silver Sea), 1865

Oil on canvas
51.5 x 77.2 cm (20 1/4 x 30 3/8 in.)
Signed, lower right: "Whistler"

Gift of Honoré and Potter Palmer, 1922.448

In the early 1860s, James McNeill Whistler began to develop an art-for-art’s-sake aesthetic, eschewing narrative or naturalistic details to focus more intently on formal concerns. In 1865 the artist traveled to Trouville, a French resort town, where he painted with Gustave Courbet and experimented with a series of increasingly simplified seascapes. The spare composition of this work—consisting solely of a broad expanse of water, a narrow swath of sky, and four delicate sailboats that break the high horizon line—reveals Whistler’s interest in Japanese woodblock prints and the new models they offered for the construction of painted space and depth. The sweeping, horizontal brush strokes and highly restrained palette, limited to pale greens and soft grays, further contribute to the innovative, flattened perspective of this painting.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, England, Society of French Artists, Seventh Exhibition, Nov. 3- ?, 1873, cat. no. 110, as The Yacht Race-A Symphony in B Sharp.

Boston, The Copley Society, Copley Hall, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler: Oil Paintings, Watercolors, Pastels, and Drawings, February 1904, cat. no. 12, as Marine-Gray and Green.

Paris, Palais de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Exposition des Oeuvres de James McNeill Whistler, May 1905, cat. no. 63, as Gris et vert, Marine.

Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, Northbrook Memorial Hall, February 1939.

Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, Canada, Two Hundred Years of American Painting, March 8-April 3, 1955, cat. no. 22, as Gray and Green: The Silver Sea.

Art Institute of Chicago, James McNeill Whistler, January 13, 1968-February 25, 1968, Frederick A. Sweet, no. 12, p. 50, ill.; traveled to Utica, N.Y., Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, March 17, 1968-April 28, 1968, as Grey and Green: The Silver Sea.

New York, Wildenstein & Co., Deaprtment of Art History and Archeology, Columbia University in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, From Realism to Symbolism, Whistler and His World, March 4-April 3, 1971, no. 19; traveled to Philadelphia Museum of Art, April 15-May 23, 1971.

Albi, France, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors Impressionnistes du Musée de Chicago, June 27-August 31, 1980, Jean Devoisins, no. 58, p. 66, ill. as Gris et vert: la mer d’argent.

Paris, Galeries Nationals du Grand Palais, Origins of Impressionism, April 19-August 8, 1994, Gary Tinterow and Henri Loyrette, fig. 290, cat. no. 192, ill. p. 237; traveled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 27, 1994-January 8, 1995.

Art Institute of Chicago, Whistler: Prints and Paintings, May-August 31, 1979, no cat.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet and the American Civil War, June 3-August 17, 2003, Juliet Wilson-Bareau, cat. no.57, p.74, 83, ill. p. 76.

Publication History

Elisabeth L. Cary, The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study with a Tentative List of the Artist’s Works, New York, 1907, no. 12, p. 157.

The Art Institute of Chicago Forty-Fourth Annual Report of the Trustees, for the Year 1922, p. 11.

Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 15, 5 (September-October 1921), pp. 158-159.

Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 16, 3 (May 1922), p. 27, 47.

The Art Institute of Chicago Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, Paintings and Drawings, Part II, Paintings and Drawings (1922), p. 69, no 850.

Guide to the Permanent Collection, (Art Institute, 1925), p. 157.

Guide to the Permanent Collection, (Art Institute, 1932), p. 176.

Bernhard Sickert, Whistler (London: Duckworth & Co., New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., n.d.), no. 20. p. 153.

Walter Sickert, A Free House: Or The Artist as Craftsman: Being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert (London, MacMillan, 1947).

Paintings in the Art Institute (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 483.

Denys Sutton, Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler (London, 1963), pp. 51-2.

Roy McMullen, Victorian Outsider: A Biography of J.A.M. Whistler (New York: E.P. Dutton & co., 1973), pp. 13-133.

Elizabeth R. and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann and Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1908), pp. 133-134.

John Shapley, Editor-in-Chief, The Index of Twentieth Century Artists, 4 vols. (1934; repr. New York: Arno Press, 1970), pp. 182-220.

Judith A. Barter et al, The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2011), no. 12.

Ownership History

Owned by Mrs. Charles W. Deschamps, London, by 1873; sold back to the artist, April 1891; sold to Theodore Duret, Paris, 1892; sold to Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago, in July 1901; by descent to her sons, Potter II and Honoré Palmer, 1918; given by them to the Art Institute, 1922.

Interpretive Resources

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