About This Artwork

James McNeill Whistler
American, 1834–1903

Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, 1863

Oil on canvas
50.8 x 68.6 cm (20 x 27 in.)
Signed, lower left: "Whistler 63"

Gift of Honoré and Potter Palmer, 1922.449

James McNeill Whistler painted marine subjects throughout his career. For several years beginning in 1855, the expatriate American artist divided his time between London and Paris; in the latter, he was exposed to the bold realism and thickly impastoed surfaces of the paintings of Gustave Courbet. The older artist’s influence shaped Whistler’s depiction of the Thames River, a subject that frequently appeared in his work after he moved to London in 1863. In this painting, he focused on the river’s industrial nature—boats and barges, laboring men, and smoking chimneys—which featured so largely in urban life. Yet despite the realism of the subject, Whistler unified the composition with deft brushwork and a subtle palette of brown and gray that anticipates his later interest in delicate tonal harmonies.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, England, The Royal Academy of the Arts, Exhibition of the Royal Academy of the Arts: The Ninety-Ninth, 1867, cat. no. 243, as Battersea.

Paris, France, Palais Royal: Galerie D Orleans, "Exposition Universelle De 1867,"
London, England, Queen’s Square, College for Working Men and Women, 1889. cat. no. 77, as The Old Battersea Bridge.

London England, Goupil Gallery, Nocturnes, Marines, and Chevalet Pieces: J. McNeil Whistler, Chelsea, cat. no. 36, lent by Madame Coronio.

Boston, Massachusetts, The Copley Society, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late Mr. J. McNeill Whistler: Oil Paintings, Watercolors, Pastels and Drawings, February 1904, cat. no. 70, as The Thames, lent by Mrs. Potter Palmer.

Paris, France, Palais de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Exposition des Oeuvres de James McNeill Whistler, May 1905, cat. no. 58, as Sur la Tamise (On the Thames), lent by Mrs. Potter Palmer.

Chicago, The University of Chicago Renaissance Society, Wieboldt Hall, Summer Exhibition: Sea and Land and City Streets, June 8-August 30, 1933, cat. no. 7.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1934, cat. no. 423.

San Francisco, M.H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Exhibition of American Painting: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings, June 7-July 7, 1935, cat. no. 242, ill.

Richmond, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Main Currents in the Development of American Painting: Inaugural Exhibition of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, January 16-March 1, 1936, cat. no. 50, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, Summer Exhibitions, July 20-October 29, 1939, cat. no. 3.

Pittsburgh, Pa. Carnegie Institute, Department of Fine Arts, Survey of American Painting, October 24-December 15, 1940.

Art Institute of Chicago, Sargent, Whistler and Mary Cassatt, January 14-February 25, 1954, Frederick Sweet, cat. no. 95; traveled to New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 25-May 23, 1954.

London, England, The Arts Council Gallery, September 1-24, 1960, James McNeill whistler, An Exhibition of Paintings and Other Works, Andrew McLaren Young, cat. no. 8; traveled to New York, The Knoedler Galleries, November 2-30, 1960.

Art Institute of Chicago, James McNeill Whistler, January 13-February 25, 1968, Frederick Sweet, cat. no. 4 as Grey and Silver Battersea Reach; traveled to Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, March 17-April 28.

Art Institute of Chicago, Whistler: Prints and Paintings, May-August 31, 1979.

Albi, France, Musee Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors Impression nistes du Musée, Jean Devoisins, June 27-August 31, 1980, cat. no. 57, p. 65, ill. as Gris et argent: Old Battersea Reach.

London, England, Barbican Art Gallery, The Image of London: Views by Travellers and Emigrés, 1550-1920, Malcolm Warner, cat. no. 158, p. 153, ill.

"Songs on Stone: James McNeill Whistler and the Art of Lithography" The Art Institute of Chicago June 6-August 30, 1998; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa October 2, 1998-January 3, 1999.

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, "Turner, Whistler, Monet," Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; 12 June 2004 – 5 September 2004; Grand Palais, Paris from 16 October 2004 – 16 January; and Tate Britain, London 12 February 2005 – 15 May 2005.

London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, "An American in London: Whistler and the Thames," October 16, 2013-January 12, 2014; travels to Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, February -April 13, 2014; Washingon D.C., Freer Gallery of Art, May 2-August 17, 2014; Japan, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, September 13–November 16, 2014; Japan, Yokohama Museum of Art, December 6, 2014-March 1, 2015; U.S. venues only.

Publication History

Elisabeth Luther Cary, The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study with a Tentative List of the Artist’s Works (New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1907), no. 70, p. 167.

Howard Mansfield, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Drypoints of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, (Chicago, 1909), p. 57, no. 90.

James W. Lane, Whistler (New York: Crown Publishers, 1942), pp. 35, 60.

Roy McMullen, Victorian Outsider: A Biography of J.A.M. Whistler (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1973), pp. 5-97, 114-117, 130-133, 244-247, 262-263.

Joseph and Elizabeth R. Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann and Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1908), vol. 1, pp. 78-79, 144.

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

Bernhard Sickert, Whistler (London: Duckworth & Co., New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1908), nos. 12, 27 and 105.

Denys Sutton, Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler (London: Country Life, 193), pp. 41-42.

Frederick A. Sweet, James McNeill Whistler (Chicago, 1968), pp. 54-57, no. 4.

Andrew McLaren Young, James McNeill Whistler, an Exhibition of Paintings and Other Works, organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the English Speaking Union of the United States (Great Britain: W.S. Cowell, 1960), p. 37-38, no. 8,

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. 10.

Margaret F. MacDonald et al., "An American in London: Whistler and the Thames," (Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 2013), cover (ill.).

Ownership History

Mrs. Aglaia Coronio, London England, c. 1889 [acquired from the artist]; sold to Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago, May 1892; 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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