Nocturne: Blue and Silver–Battersea Reach

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W: 49.9 x 72.3 cm (19 5/8 x 28 7/16 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, water

To 1902
William George Rawlinson (1812-1902), London, to 1902 [1]

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from William George Rawlinson, through William Marchant and Co., London, in April 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. 3, 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)

William George Rawlinson (C.L. Freer source) 1840-1928
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. This one depicts barges moored to unload coal and other goods along the Chelsea docks; the chimneys and factories of Battersea appear in ghostly outline on the opposite shore. Whistler applied a brown underpaint to the coarsely woven canvas before covering the surface with thin layers of runny blue pigment. Later, he reworked the picture, and it is now more grey than blue, with touches of bright color to define the artificial urban light and its reflections on the river.

Published References
  • Florence N. Levy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paintings in Oil and Pastel by James A. McNeill Whistler: New York, March 15 to May 31, 1910. Exh. cat. New York. No. 16.
  • Society of Art Collectors, New York. Comparative Exhibition of Native and Foreign Art, 1904. Exh. cat., 1904. No. 177.
  • Hilary Taylor. James McNeill Whistler. New York. pl. 51.
  • James McNeill Whistler. Nocturnes, Marines, & Chevalet Pieces: Small Collection Kindly Lent by Their Owners. London, 1892. pl. 15.
  • 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. 75.
  • Burns A. Stubbs. James McNeill Whistler: A Biographical Outline Illustrated from the Collections of the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 1, no. 4 Washington, 1950. pl. 11.
  • Bunkio Matsuki. James A. McNeill Whistler: In Memoriam. vol. 5. p. 9.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 27, 122, pl. 25.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 34-35.
  • Donald Holden. Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes. New York. p. 37, pl. 8.
  • Bruce Robertson. Reckoning with Winslow Homer: His Late Paintings and Their Influence. Exh. cat. Cleveland. p. 58.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 64, pl. 16.
  • D.S. MacColl. Mr. Whistler's paintings in oil. New York. p. 91.
  • Jan Stuart. Guiding Luminaries Charles Lang Freer and John A. Pope: the Freer Gallery of Art's Chinese Ceramic Collection. vol. 85 London. p. 112, fig. 4.
  • H. Barbara Weinberg. Childe Hassam: American Impressionist. Exh. cat. New York and New Haven, 2004. p. 128, fig. 125.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 80, p. 162.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 63, p. 166.
  • Sadakichi Hartmann. The Whistler Book: A Monograph of the Life and Position in Art of James McNeill Whister, Together with a Careful Study of His More Important Works. Boston. p. 265.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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