Way & Dennis, and the Pennells, considered this to be an unfinished study for the upright Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay [YMSM 076], which shows the same view of the pier, shipping and hills, although clearly the effect here is of day rather than of night. 1
However, Getscher disputed the idea that this was a sketch for Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay, because 'the sense of space is entirely different in the two paintings.' 2 The two pictures clearly show the same view, and there is the possibility that Sketch for 'Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay' and Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay were originally much more alike, and that the latter was completely reworked, making what had been a daylight scene into a nocturnal one.
Sketch for 'Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay' also relates to The Morning after the Revolution, Valparaiso [YMSM 075], which has similar daylight lighting, shipping and figures, but with two additional ships in the background, and small boats to right of the pier.
It is painted on a fine weave canvas, with a dark ground. There are numerous pentimenti, or areas where a previous object, boat, sail, or figures, has been painted over. It is not known if it was Whistler or another artist who did some of the retouching and reworking of the canvas.
It is likely that the increasing transparency of the paint has changed the appearance of the picture. For instance, there appear to have been steps at the right side of the pier or jetty in the foreground, that are now partially concealed.
The painting appears to have been tidied up, with the jetty, sea, hills and sky covered with thinned paint. Long brushstrokes run right across the canvas from left to right, in the sky. The hills, when completed, partially covered the masts of the ships, which were then repainted over the hills and the sky. The sailing ship, by the jetty in the middle distance, is in a partially overpainted state, and it is not entirely clear what is ship, and what, sea. Probably in an attempt to clarify the subject, some elements have been outlined: the bow of the sailing ship, for instance, and the outline of the right side of the jetty.
According to gallery records, it was relined, varnish was removed, it was cleaned, retouched and revarnished in 1966 by Ben E. Johnson, Virginia.
Last updated: 11th May 2021 by Margaret