Nocturne: Cremorne Gardens, No. 3

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1872-1877
Oil on canvas
H x W: 44.9 x 63.1 cm (17 11/16 x 24 13/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

night, United States

To 1919
Percy Moore Turner (circa 1877-1950), London and Paris, to 1919 [1]

Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Percy Moore Turner in 1919 [2]

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


[1] See Accession List, Collections Management office, as well as Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 15c, 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)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Percy Moore Turner (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1877-1950


Whistler was attracted to the nocturnal visual effects of Cremorne Gardens, a popular, if somewhat seedy, amusement park only a few blocks from his residence in the Chelsea section of London. Two figures, reduced to quick strokes of black and white paint, seem to glide away from a pool of light in the right foreground. Their retreat into shadow hints at Cremorne’s reputation as an illicit trysting spot. The implied narrative, however, is literally overshadowed by Whistler’s interest in aesthetic, rather than romantic, relationships. Nearly abstract patterns of lighter pigment, thinned to a runny consistency that Whistler called “sauce,” punctuate the enveloping darkness. The layering of light and dark rectangles is a compositional device that Whistler repeated in some of the works to the right, most notably in the Amsterdam watercolors and in the Venice etching "Nocturne: Furnace."

Published References
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. .
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 124, pl. 28.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces. Richmond and New York, 2004. p. 191, fig. 5.22.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 200, fig. 137.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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