Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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[Views of the Thames]


  • Unknown.


  • [Exposition], Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1873 (cat. nos. unknown)

On 18 January 1873, Whistler wrote to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) that some of his paintings were on exhibition in Paris, with Durand-Ruel:

'Meanwhile I write to tell you of an exhibition of several works of mine now to be opened by Mons. Durand Ruel - Rue Lafitte ... They are not merely canvasses having interest in themselves alone, but are intended to indicate slightly to "those whom it may concern" something of my theory in art - The science of color and "picture pattern" as I have worked it out for myself during these years -

... Go and see and also fight any battles for me about them with the painter fellows you may find opposed to them - of whom by the way there will doubtless be many - Write me what you may hear and in short as I am not there to see, tell me what effect my work produces, if any -

You will notice and perhaps meet with opposition that my frames I have designed as carefully as my pictures - and thus they form as important a part as any of the rest of the work - carrying on the particular harmony throughout - This is of course entirely original with me and has never been done - Though many have painted on their frames but never with real purpose - or knowledge - in short never in this way or anything at all like it - This I have so thoroughly established here that no one would dare to put any colour whatever ... on their frames without feeling that they would at once be pointed out as forgers or imitators; and I wish this to be also clearly stated in Paris that I am the inventor of all this kind of decoration in color in the frames; that I may not have a lot of clever little Frenchmen trespassing on my ground -

By the names of the pictures also I point out something of what I mean in my theory of painting.' 1

Lucas wrote in his diary that he 'saw Whistler's pictures' at Durand-Ruel's on 20 January, but did not describe or comment on them, or at least, if he did, no letter has been located. 2

Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea, Tate Britain
Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea, Tate Britain

Given Whistler's description of the frame, it is likely that the exhibition included such works as Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea [YMSM 103], reproduced above.

An unidentified press cutting describes some of the works exhibited: 'des vues des bords de la Tamise, pendant le brouillard ou lorsque tombe le jour. Tout est strictement d'un seul ton, ou bleu verdâtre, ou jaune clair ... Le désir d'atteindre à la franchise des estampes japonaises est flagrant.' 3 This press cutting is not sufficiently precise to enable any of the Thames paintings exhibited in Paris in 1873 to be identified.


1: GUW #09182.

2: Randall 1979 [more], vol. 2, p. 373.

3: GUL Whistler PC 1, pp. 61, 71.

Last updated: 18th November 2019 by Margaret