James Abbot McNeill Whistler, American, 1834 - 1903
Title: Nocturne in Grey and Gold - Piccadilly
Date: 1881-1883
Medium: Watercolour on paper
Painted surface: 22.2 x 29.2 cm
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Right Honorable Johnathan Hogg, 1930
Object Number: NGI.2915
DescriptionWhistler was a significant figure in the Aesthetic Movement in England. Advocates of the movement argued for the autonomous value of art: art for art’s sake. Whistler began experimenting with new ways of presenting and installing his art works in the 1870s. His most influential exhibitions were his meticulously designed one-man shows of the early 1880s. He controlled every aspect of these exhibitions, from the design of the distinctive frame mouldings to the colour of the walls and the well-spaced layout of the pictures themselves. the displays caused a stir in polite london society, attracting the attention of reporters and critics.
This watercolour featured in Whistler’s 1884 exhibition Notes - Harmonies - Nocturnes at the Dowdeswell Galleries on London’s new Bond Street. The display comprised 67 small-scale oils, watercolours and pastels. The frame of this work is significant as it retains the original silver-gold gilding that Whistler himself chose. Unusually, the title includes a location,‘Piccadilly’; Whistler’s usual practice was to give his works non-specific titles, which emphasised his move away from the conventional depiction of subjects. He wanted to encourage the viewer to appreciate the artworks simply as aesthetic objects, to experience them as arrangements of colour and line rather than as representational images.

March 2016

ProvenancePurchased from the Artist by Right Honorable Johnathan Hogg, Dublin, 1884; bequeathed, Right Honorable Johnathan Hogg, Dublin, July 1930
Exhibition HistoryAnnual Exhibition of Sketches, Pictures & Photography, Dublin Sketching Club, Leinster Hall, Dublin, December 1884

"Notes" - "Harmonies" - "Nocturnes", Dowdeswell's, London, 1884

Exhibition of Paintings, British Dental Association, Dublin, August 1888

A Loan Collection of Modern Paintings, Leinster Hall, Dublin, 1 - 29 April 1899

Pictures presented to the City of Dublin to form the Nucleus of a Gallery of Modern Art…, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, 1904-1905

Whistler, The Graphic Work: Amsterdam, Liverpool, London, Venice, T. Agnew & sons Ltd, London, 6 - 30 July 1976; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 20 August - 26 September 1976; Glasgow Art Museum, Glasgow, 7 October - 11 November 1976

Master European Drawings, from the Collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre, Colorado; Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park; Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; The Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minnesota; The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1983

Whistler and Sickert Exhibition, Fundacion la Caixa, Madrid, 17 March - 17 May 1998

Shades of Grey: Painting without Colour, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 22 June - 29 September 2013

Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art 2014, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 5 July - 26 October 2014

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