Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort
In the 1860s and 1870s Whistler produced a body of work based on the Thames. Pivotal to his career, this beautiful group of paintings, prints and drawings permits a detailed examination of his approach to composition, subject and technique. The earliest paintings, notably Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge, produced soon after his arrival in London, mark one of his most profound and successful challenges to the art establishment of the time. As well as allowing a detailed study of the evolution of an artist, these works show the Thames under contrasting climatic conditions, from Chelsea in Ice to the lovely Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Westminster Bridge, which depicts the deep blue of warm summer evenings. They bring to life Victorian London: the workers and women who frequented the Thames-side wharves and pubs, the shipping that thronged the Pool, the barges that navigated the perilous passage under the bridges, and the steamboats and ferries crowded with daytrippers.The Nocturnes of the 1870s mark an important breakthrough in Whistler's art: his shift from French Realism to sophisticated harmony, based on mood and atmosphere, but still rooted in a literal rendering of the Thames waterside. The famous Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge is the culmination of his bridge paintings; here the influence of Japanese prints reached its fullest form. This comprehensive and handsomely illustrated study presents the definitive examples of Whistler's radical new aesthetic approach to the time-honoured subject of the city and river. In addition, the works reveal to us his world - the exhibitions, the personalities, the buildings, the style, and the atmosphere which inform his art and root this American cosmopolitan securely in the ranks of artists inspired by London and the Thames.