The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 067
Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1865
Collection: Toledo Museum of Art, OH
Accession Number: 1923.20
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 34.0 x 45.7 cm (13 3/8 x 18")
Signature: none
Inscription: none

Date

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville dates from Whistler's sojourn in Trouville, probably in October and November 1865. 1

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art
Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art

Whistler wrote to Lucas (Luke) Alexander Ionides (1837-1924) on 26 October 1865, 'My pictures I think you will like very much - The Sea is splendid at this moment but I am anxious to get back.' 2 In the following year, Whistler deposited several 'Sea views' with Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) during his absence in Valparaiso, leaving Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886) with authority to sell or pawn them as needed. 3

Images

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art
Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art

Subject

Titles

Variations on the title include:

A newspaper commented n 1892, 'with Mr. Whistler subject is nothing except as giving a scope for colour', and this was emphasized by titles such as 'Crepuscule in Opal'. 7

'Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville' is the preferred title.

Description

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art, OH
Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art, OH

A beach scene in horizontal format. A broad beach, with a few scattered rocks, leads to a pale silvery sea. A pale blue sky is flecked with clouds, a band of grey clouds at left being tinged with yellow and red.

Site

Trouville, a popular seaside resort on the coast of France.

Whistler painted several pictures at Trouville, including Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville y064, Sea and Rain y065, Blue and Silver: Trouville y066, Green and Grey. Channel y069, and Green and Grey. The Oyster Smacks – Evening y070.

Technique

Technique

Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art, OH
Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville, Toledo Museum of Art, OH

The canvas may originally have been acquired in France. Although it does not correspond exactly with French sizes, it is close to the French 'toile de 8' (33 x 46 cm, for a 'paysage').

It was painted thinly, with a lot of palette knife work, particularly on the beach. The thick strokes of paint in the sky and at the edge of the water soften the effect of the palette knife. The rocks in the foreground are painted more fluidly with a soft brush. The sunset colours have a luminous quality.

Conservation History

In 1892, Whistler assured the owner, 'Don't be at all afraid of my touching the picture - I am not dreaming of such a thing - I shall only have it cleaned and varnished beautifully.' 8

Frame

Whistler proposed to have it reframed for exhibition in 1892. He wrote to Frederick Jameson (1839-1916), on 14 January 1892, 'I want you to let me have it framed in one of my newly composed frames. They are very beautiful - and your picture will gain five times in stateliness ... The frame will cost you very little.' 9 And a couple of weeks later, he repeated,

'The new frame will really cost very little - and the difference to the work will be immense ... and now send up the picture at once to Cheyne Walk - My wife will receive it and see to its being measured for its frame - so that there may be no time lost.' 10

On 14 February David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) told Whistler that Frederick Henry Grau (1859-1892) had a frame 'in hand' and the painting was with Stephen Richards (1844-1900). 11

History

Provenance

The artist Frederick Jameson may have acquired it 1868/1869, when Whistler was staying with him in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury (see Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, The Three Girls y088). It was sold by Jameson, probably soon after 1905, to A. Arnold Hannay, and sold by him through Scott & Fowles to Florence Scott Libbey, wife of the founder of the Toledo Museum of Art, who gave it to the Museum in 1923.

Exhibitions

Whistler wrote to Frederick Jameson (1839-1916), on 14 January 1892:

'I have been greatly pleased to hear ... that you are always fond of the little Trouville Nocturne, or rather Crepuscule - Well, I long to see it again - I want you to lend it to me, that I may see that it is in perfect condition … and then I want the picture for an exhibition I am to have this spring - at Goupil's - in March.' 12

Curiously, Whistler again called Jameson's picture a 'Nocturne' in a letter to D. C. Thomson on 14 February 1892, when the picture was being cleaned and reframed. 13 However, 'crepuscule' seems a better description.

Whistler maliciously chose a particularly appropriate review as commentary on this painting in the entry for the Goupil catalogue in 1892. It came from the Artist, and ended, 'We want not always the blotches and misty suggestions of the impressionist.' 14

After the show, Whistler wanted to borrow the painting again for exhibition in Munich, but it was not sent. 15

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 67).

2: GUW #11311.

3: J. Hiffernan to J. A. Rose, 14 May 1866, GUW #11484.

4: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 39).

5: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 140).

6: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 67).

7: Anon., 'The Musical World', St James's Gazette, 21 March 1892, pp. 12-13.

8: Whistler to F. Jameson, [29 January 1892], GUW #10826.

9: [14 January 1892], GUW #10825.

10: [29 January 1892], GUW #10826.

11: GUW #08216.

12: [14 January 1892], GUW #10825.

13: GUW #08216.

14: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 39).

15: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [1/8 April 1892], GUW #08210.