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

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Nocturne: Blue and Gold – St Mark's, Venice

Nocturne: Blue and Gold – St Mark's, Venice was painted during Whistler's sojourn in Venice from September 1879 to October 1880. 1

By April 1880 Whistler was planning to return and told Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885): 'I have worked very well - notwithstanding this awful weather - and shall bring, I hope, ... a large painting - but this last you must keep quite for yourself and the doctor.' 2 However, Whistler did not return at this time and it is not certain to which, if any, of the extant Venetian oils he is referring: Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice [YMSM 213], Nocturne in Blue and Silver: The Lagoon,Venice [YMSM 212] (neither of which is particularly large), or the well-documented but unlocated portrait, A Gondolier [YMSM 216].


                Nocturne: Blue and Gold – St Mark's, Venice, National Museum of Wales
Nocturne: Blue and Gold – St Mark's, Venice, National Museum of Wales

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice [YMSM 213] was first exhibited in the Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1886 (cat. no. 331) as 'Nocturne in Brown and Gold: St. Mark's, Venice'.

Whistler retained possession of it for some years and may have worked on it. It was seen in Whistler's Fulham Road studio in 1887 by William Booth Pearsall (1845-1913). 3 It was cleaned and restored a few years later, and, on 23 September 1891, David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) of Goupil's wrote to Whistler that the 'Venice-scene' would be sent by the restorer Stephen Richards (1844-1900) to Paris. 4 Whistler told Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) that having been cleaned it was 'superbe.' 5 When it was shown, shortly afterwards, in Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 38) it had a new title, 'Nocturne Blue and Gold – St. Mark's, Venice.' The change in title could reflect changes made by Whistler, or changes in perception, or the fact that it had been cleaned.

Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 213).

2: [15/30 April 1880], GUW #12816.

3: Quoted by Pennell 1908 [more] , vol. 2, pp. 28, 63.

4: GUW #05678.

5: Whistler to Montesquiou, [20 November 1891], GUW #11554.

Last updated: 16th December 2020 by Margaret