It has been suggested that Nocturne in Black and Gold: Entrance to Southampton Water could date from 1876, and should be identified with Nocturne in Black and Gold [YMSM 167], which was exhibited in the 12th Exhibition, Society of French Artists, Deschamps Gallery, London, 1876 (cat. no. 150). 1
A date of 1877/1878 is implied by the painter Edwin Arthur Ward (1859-1933), who, in his Recollections of a Savage, stated that Whistler had visited Southampton in the company of Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922), chairman of the P. & O. Line, at the time of his quarrel with Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892) over Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room [YMSM 178]. Ward mentions a 'charming sketch reminiscent of the scene that night when they had embarked upon the trial trip on the new P. & O.', which Whistler painted 'some days after their return to town' and offered Sutherland, unsuccessfully, for 700 guineas. 2
The colour and condition of the painting make it extremely hard to judge the original technique and appearance, and therefore to date the painting, and the published records are confusing. It could date from the late 1870s or early 1880s.
It was definitely exhibited at the VI Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1882 (cat. no. 106). This might imply that it was a recent painting, but does not prove that it was. Later, William Heinemann (1863-1920) stated categorically that the 'moonlight on Southampton Water' which was at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1882 'was undoubtedly painted in the fall of 1881, when Whistler returned from Jersey and saw the moon rise at Southampton.' 3
Last updated: 6th February 2021 by Margaret