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

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Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • Probably 'Harmony in Grey' (1872, Deschamps). 1
  • 'Symphony in Grey' (1904, ISSPG). 2
  • 'Symphony in Grey - Early Morning, Thames' (1905, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy). 3
  • 'Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames' (1980, YMSM). 4

'Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames' is the preferred title.

Description


                    Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art
Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art

An almost monochrome painting of the view across a broad river, in horizontal format. The foreshore runs at a slight angle upwards from lower left to right, the line of the water's edge broken only by the rectangular cartouche bearing Whistler's signature. On the far side are warehouses and factories, with two factory chimneys towards the right, reflected in the water. Towards the far side of the water, at left, there is a long, low barge or steamer with a single tall funnel, and behind it, to right, another long barge, possibly moored.

Site


                    Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art
Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art

                    Battersea Reach, Corcoran/National Gallery of Art
Battersea Reach, Corcoran/National Gallery of Art

The same view of Battersea Reach is seen in Battersea Reach [YMSM 045]. The view is from in or near Whistler's house in Chelsea, looking south across the river Thames, in London.

Comments

Curry considered the restrained colour scheme and almost abstract, geometrical composition, with the butterfly on its rectangular field balancing the puff of smoke from the chimneys, as 'orientalizing elements.' He quotes Ernest Fenellosa, who wrote that Whistler's greys 'pulsate with imprisoned colours,' and who considered Whistler the only European artist to use grey as the basis of colour harmonies, as in the 'old Chinese school.' 5

Notes:

1: Fifth Exhibition of the Society of French Artists [Winter Exhibition], Deschamps Gallery, London, 1872 (cat. no. 122).

2: Fourth Exhibition, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Regent Street, London, 1904, 4th edition (cat. no. 152a).

3: The Inaugural Loan Collection of Paintings, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, 1905 (cat. no. 166).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 98).

5: Curry 1984 [more] , pl. 23. Fenellosa 1907 [more] , p. 62.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret