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

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Coast Scene: Bathers <<   >>

Coast Scene: Bathers


The original title is not known. Several variations on a title have been suggested:

  • 'Sea Shore scene with bathers' (1917, Colnaghi). 1
  • 'Coast Scene' (1921, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo). 2
  • 'Coast Scene Bathers' (1933, Art Institute of Chicago). 3
  • 'Coast Scene: Bathers' (1980, YMSM). 4

'Coast Scene: Bathers' is the generally accepted title.


Coast Scene: Bathers, Art Institute of Chicago
Coast Scene: Bathers, Art Institute of Chicago

A beach scene in horizontal format. In the foreground a dozen figures walk, sit, and play on a grey beach, and a couple at right swim in the pale turquoise sea, which breaks in gentle waves on the beach. Just to right of centre at upper right is a sailing boat. A darker shade of greenish blue marks the horizon. The sky is pale blue.


Possibly Dieppe, a busy port and tourist destination on the French coast.


Treuherz comments that La Plage, by Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), shows the strong influence of such works by Whistler as Coast Scene: Bathers. 5

The Art Institute website comments:

'In this intimately scaled seascape, James McNeill Whistler employed the sparest of compositional elements to evoke a coastal atmosphere. Broad horizontal bands of blues and gray suggest sky, ocean, and sand, with dabs of thin pigment giving economical, yet expressive form to around a dozen figures on the windswept beach. Whistler dedicated much of his artistic practice to capturing the mood and color harmonies of marine scenes. Coast Scene, Bathers was painted en plein air, a practice to which the artist returned in the 1880s. It marked a distinctive shift from his studio-produced Nocturnes of the previous decade.' 6


1: Colnaghi's records, London, 1 November 1917.

2: A Collection of Paintings lent by Messrs. R. C. And N. M. Vose of Boston, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1921 (cat. no. 46).

3: Chicago 1933 (cat. no. 34).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 326).

5: Treuherz, ‎Julian, Masterpieces from Manchester City Art Gallery: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, Manchester City Art Gallery, 1984, p. 59.

6: Art Institute of Chicago website at (acc. 2019).

Last updated: 3rd December 2020 by Margaret