Whistler's Black and Gold Nocturne

Whistler's Black and Gold Nocturne
Whistler's Black and Gold Nocturne

J. M. Whistler had a fantastic view from his house of the River Thames as it passed through London, and the water of that river, its atmosphere and its colors were the object of attention of his art on countless occasions. A good example of this is this painting whose full title is Nocturne in black and gold: the falling rocket.


Whistler's Black and Gold Nocturne

A work he painted around 1875 that was the subject of some of the fiercest art criticism ever written. And it is that when the painting was exhibited, the prestigious art critic John Ruskin wrote that this painting was as if the artist threw a can of paint in the face of the public.

Obviously such words did not please the painter at all and he ended up suing Ruskin. In fact, the matter ended up in court. A trial that was won by James McNeill Whistler, but the verdict was also somewhat humiliating, as the judge made him pay a penny in damages.

On the other hand, the judgment of the passage of time has clearly ended up being won by the painter, since his series of nocturnes such as this one that is preserved at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the United States Unidos or others like Nocturne in blue and silver are considered magnificent works with an evident and very particular personality within theimpressionist movement, within which Whistler can be included.

All these “nocturne”, alluding to certain musical compositions, are works that are characterized by creating an image from the most harmonious gradations of tone. In fact, the color, both as a mass and sometimes in points such as the gold of fireworks, removes all the prominence from the possible subject of the scene.

This is a type of art that on the one hand requires an innate speed on the part of its creator. And the truth is thatWhistlerused to work quite quickly, although when he saw fit he was a very thorough painter. That here is seen precisely in the golden points. Some points whose layout is well studied so that it really gives us the sensation of movement, of the explosion of a rocket and of the emotion that this transmits at that moment.

And it should also be noted that within this riot of color he is able to integrate three figures in the foreground. In the lower part there are some features that would be three spectators who, like us, attend the fireworks. Some figures that serve to reference the scene and to give us clues about what that representation is.

In short, this work was not made by simply throwing a paint can as Ruskin said, it is a great work especially for its explosion of color, the light of the night or the smoke generated by the rockets. A scene that would have undoubtedly fascinated another English artist who painted the river so many timesof London: William Turner.

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