Several possible titles have been suggested:
The preferred title 'Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor' is based on the 1892 catalogue, with punctuation changed to conform with other titles.
A seascape in horizontal format, with figures on the beach in the foreground and three fishing boats setting off from the shore. Whistler described it as:
'a large sea piece with some fishing smacks putting off - sky lovely and the sea of an immense distance and gleaming in the soft light of the moon. … the wet sands and the water falling on the beach in the blue glimmering of the moon.' 10
On 19 February 1876 William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) reported Whistler as having 'lately completed three interesting studies of landscape', one of which was probably this oil, described as:
'moonlight on the sea, and presents a wide stretch of quiet water, with a few fishing-boats pushing out from the shore. A perfect stillness controls the scene, save where the tide, rippling in upon the sand, catches with its movement the white shine of the moon. One little wing-like cloud hovers above a sea of intensest blue, which seems to reflect and to contain the fairer tones of the star-lit blue sky.' 11
Bognor is to the west of Brighton, on the south coast of England. Whistler was invited to the opening of the Second Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil and Water Colour, Royal Pavilion Gallery, Brighton, 1875, on 8 September.
The subject could well be one of oyster smacks putting out to sea, as in an earlier painting of Trouville, Green and Grey. The Oyster Smacks – Evening [YMSM 070]).
1: VII Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1883 (cat. no. 111).
5: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 24).
7: VI. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1892 (cat. no. 1950b).
8: Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (cat. no. 96).
Last updated: 8th June 2021 by Margaret