Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water

Dark marine landscape painting with shadowy ships,  yellow setting sun
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • Dark marine landscape painting with shadowy ships,  yellow setting sun

Date:

1872

Artist:

James McNeill Whistler
American, 1834–1903

About this artwork

“Art should be independent of all clap-trap—should stand alone and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear,” said the daringly unconventional painter James McNeill Whistler. Born in the United States, Whistler spent most of his adult life in Paris and London. To emphasize that his paintings have no narrative overtones—that they instead are aesthetic arrangements of color and shape on flat surfaces—he gave them titles derived from music, such as arrangement, symphony, and nocturne. One of his first such paintings, Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water, depicts a hazy, moonlit night on an inlet of the English Channel, southwest of London. Although the work is based on his experience of the location, the specifics of place are inconsequential. Instead, Whistler was interested in the subtle harmony of shades of blue, punctuated by touches of gold. By blurring and obscuring the shapes of the distant boats, he made color and form the primary focus of the painting. Often misunderstood and sometimes openly ridiculed when they were first exhibited, Whistler’s luminous nocturnal visions were forerunners of the experiments in abstraction that would follow in the next century.

Currently Off View

American Art

Artist

James McNeill Whistler

Title

Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water

Origin

London

Date

1872

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed lower right: (butterfly monogram)

Dimensions

50.5 × 76 cm (19 7/8 × 29 15/16 in.)

Credit Line

Stickney Fund

Reference Number

1900.52

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share