Nocturne: Grey and Silver–Chelsea Embankment, Winter

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1879
Oil on canvas
H x W: 62.6 x 47.5 cm (24 5/8 x 18 11/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 11: A Perfect Harmony

Oil painting

night, nocturne, river, United States, winter

To 1902
G. N. Stevens, Virginia Water, England [1]

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from G. N. Stevens, Virginia Water, England in 1902 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] Undated folder sheet note, Object file. See also Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 5, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

G. N. Stevens (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Following a suggestion by his patron Frederick Richards Leyland, Whistler used the musical term “Nocturne” to title more than thirty paintings of London after dark that he created in the 1870s. When this painting was exhibited in Glasgow in 1879, a local journalist described it as “fresh from the easel of this artist . . . a nocturne, the Thames by moonlight, with ice coming down the river, an effect seen by Mr. Whistler only the other night.” The immediacy of the subject exists in delicate tension with the decorative quality of the overall design, with its fluid, thin washes of pigment, clearly defined boundaries, and extreme, tilted perspective.

Published References
  • Léonce Bénédite. L'œuvre de James MacNeill Whistler: quarante reproductions de chefs-d'œuvre du maître, réunis à l'occasion de l'exposition commémorative organisée à Paris, au palais de l'École nationale des beaux-arts. Exh. cat. Paris. pl. 40.
  • Frances Fowle. Impressionism & Scotland. Exh. cat. Edinburgh. fig. 59.
  • Mary Ellen Hayward. The Influence of the Classical Oriental Tradition. vol. 14, no. 2 Chicago, Summer 1979. fig. 6.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. vol. 2: pl. 137.
  • Bunkio Matsuki. James A. McNeill Whistler: In Memoriam. vol. 5. p. 9.
  • Charles Henry Caffin. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: Lecture at the Detroit Museum of Art. Detroit, Friday, April 23, 1909. p. 43.
  • D.S. MacColl. Mr. Whistler's paintings in oil. New York. p. 88.
  • William Chapman Sharpe. New York Nocturne: The City after Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography. Princeton, New Jersey. p. 92, fig. 2.5.
  • Theodore Duret. Histoire de James McNeill Whistler et de Son Oeuvre. Paris. p. 122.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 126, pl. 30.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 61, p. 166.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 181, fig. 47.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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