Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
1866-ca. 1874
Oil on canvas
H x W: 76.4 x 50.7 cm (30 1/16 x 19 15/16 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, United States

Capt. Henry Hill (1818-1882), Brighton, England, purchased from the artist [1]

From 1889
Alexander Ionides (1840-1898), London, purchased at auction, Christie's, May 25, 1889, no. 80, "Nocturne in Blue and Silver Valparaiso" [2]

From 1892
Sir John Charles Day, purchased in May 1892 [3]

From between 1895-1897
George McCulloch (1848-1907), British, purchased between 1895-1897 [4]

From 1907
Mrs. George McCulloch, by bequest from her husband, George McCulloch, in 1907 [5]

To 1909
Wallis and Son, The French Gallery, London, to 1909 [6]

From 1909 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Wallis and Son, The French Gallery, through D. Croal Thomson, in 1909 [7]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [8]


[1] According to Curatorial Remark 3, S. Hobbs, 1977, in the object record, this painting was purchased from Whistler by Captain Henry Hill of Brighton. Upon Hill's death, it was sold at auction at Christie's, May 25, 1889, as no. 80, "Nocturne in Blue and Silver Valparaiso," to Alexander Ionides. It was then sold in May of 1892 to Sir John Day, and subsequently bought by George McCulloch, sometime between 1895 and 1897. It was bequeathed to McCulloch's widow on December 12, 1907. In July 1909, Charles Lang Freer purchased the painting from Wallis and Son, London, through D. Croal Thomson.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1.

[5] See note 1.

[6] See List of Whistler Purchases since Making up the Smithsonian Inventory, pg. 12, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[7] See note 6.

[8] 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)

Mrs. George McCulloch
Wallis and Son, The French Gallery (C.L. Freer source)
Capt. Henry Hill 1818-1882
Sir John Charles Day 1826-1908
Alexander Ionides 1840-1898
George McCulloch 1848-1907
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Whistler began this painting in Valparaiso, Chile, where he witnessed a Spanish fleet attack the city. Whistler probably started the painting as a daylight scene, transforming it into a night scene when he reworked the canvas in 1874. The high horizon and the powerful diagonal of the wharf create an arrangement of forms that has no European precedent, but recalls the late landscapes of the Japanese painter Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). 

Published References
  • William Chapman Sharpe. New York Nocturne: The City after Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography. Princeton, New Jersey. pl. 7.
  • Frances Fowle. Impressionism & Scotland. Exh. cat. Edinburgh. fig. 77.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. .
  • Anna Gruetzner. A Fragile Modernism: Whistler and His Impressionist Followers. New Haven and London, 2007. fig. 63.
  • 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. 7.
  • Hélène Valance. Nocturne: Night in American Art 1890-1917. New Haven, Connecticut. p. 21, fig. 18.
  • Valerie Ann Leeds. George Sotter: Light and Shadow. Exh. cat. Doylestown, PA. p. 23, fig. 3.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 56, fig. 39.
  • , Robin Asleson, Lee Glazer, Lacey Taylor Jordan, John Siewert, Marc Simpson, Sylvia Yount. After Whistler: The Artist and His Influence on American Painting. Exh. cat. p. 59, fig. 50.
  • Ralph Sessions. The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism. Exh. cat. New York, 2005. p. 65, fig. 29.
  • Andrew Ginger. Instead of Modernity: The Western canon and the incorporation of the Hispanic (c. 1850–75). Interventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century, 1st ed. Manchester, UK. p. 84.
  • Musée d’Orsay, The Frick Collection. James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Chefs-d'œuvre de la Frick Collection, New York. Exh. cat. Paris, France, January 2022. p. 110, plate 74.
  • Katharine Lochnan. David Milne Watercolors: Painting Toward the Light. Exh. cat. Ontario. p. 114.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 119, pl. 22.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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