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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Dark Blue and Silver <<   >>

Dark Blue and Silver


Dark Blue and Silver, Hill-Stead Museum
Dark Blue and Silver, Hill-Stead Museum

As with Violet and Silver: A Deep Sea [YMSM 411], the size corresponds quite closely to the French 'toile de vingt' (50 x 73 cm) and the canvas was probably acquired in France.

It is painted with broad, free brushstrokes, and appears very fresh and spontaneous. Some areas are free of paint, the canvas providing a base colour. The paint is mostly thin, except for the touches of white on the rollers. Whistler described it as having been 'simply and directly painted, One painting only - no second coat of any kind or retouching.' 1

Conservation History

Whistler sent detailed instructions to Stephen Richards (1844-1900) regarding his recent seascapes, Violet and Silver: A Deep Sea [YMSM 411] and Dark Blue and Silver [YMSM 412]:

'Two paintings of mine - sea pieces - I am sending to the Grafton Gallery. … I want you to have them on their arrival ...

The pictures are quite new, having been painted only this autumn - I have put a thin coat of varnish on them about a month or six weeks ago - I don't think any harm can come to them because of it - for they are so simply and directly painted, One painting only - no second coat of any kind or retouching - so that there really is nothing to crack!

Now I just want you to take them out of their frames - and give them a beautiful coat of varnish - not too thick - but you know what pleases me - so that the surface shall be perfect -

Don't venture otherwise to touch anything!

Clean well the glass, and frame perfectly the pictures again - after they have dried sufficiently - and paste the stre[t]cher into the frame at the back - you know - a strip of brown paper to keep out the dust & damp -

... You will notice that one of the pictures has been slightly torn - up in the right hand corner - by the scoundrel who stretched it - and there is the mark of a nail that the brute drove at the time into the stretcher -

However I don't think I would touch this at present. ... the frame just covers the tiny hole of the nail.' 2

Whistler suggested to David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) that he should go and see the paintings at the Grafton, after treatment: 'You will see there the two sea pieces that I showed you in their unvarnished and comparatively undressed state in the Studio - I hope you will like them - I do!!' 3


1: Whistler to S. Richards, [9 January 1894], GUW #10719.

2: [9 January 1894], GUW #10719.

3: [21 January 1894], GUW #08288.

Last updated: 21st November 2020 by Margaret