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

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Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor


Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'Nocturne in Blue and Silver' (1883, Grosvenor). 1
  • Probably 'Nocturne en bleu et argent' (1888, Durand-Ruel). 2
  • 'Blue & Silver Bognor' (1892, Whistler). 3
  • 'Nocturne Bognor' (1892, Whistler). 4
  • 'Nocturne, Blue and Silver – Bognor' (1892, Goupil). 5
  • 'Nocturne bleu et argent; – Bognor' (1892, Exposition nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris). 6
  • Possibly 'Symphonie in Silber' (1892, Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Munich). 7
  • 'Bognor – Nocturne' (1901, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo). 8
  • 'Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor' (1980, YMSM). 9

The preferred title 'Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor' is based on the 1892 catalogue, with punctuation changed to conform with other titles.


                    Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor, Freer Gallery of Art
Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Bognor, Freer Gallery of Art

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).

2: Exposition Brown, Boudin, Caillebotte, Lepine, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Whistler, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1888 (cat. no. 39 or 42); see Nocturne en bleu et argent [YMSM 149].

3: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [4 January 1892], GUW #08214.

4: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, 28 February [1892], GUW #08213.

5: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 24).

6: Exhibition catalogue Paris 1892 (Société nationale)[more] (cat. no. 1067).

7: VI. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1892 (cat. no. 1950b).

8: Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (cat. no. 96).

9: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 100).

10: Whistler to C. Flower, [May/July 1875], formerly dated [July/August 1874], GUW #09093.

11: Rossetti 1876, Academy [more] , at p. 180. An almost identical description was published in Rossetti 1876, Art Monthly Review [more] . See also Peattie 1995 [more] , at p. 86, note 6.

Last updated: 8th June 2021 by Margaret