Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Perfection of Harmony: The Art of James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
May 28 – October 2, 2016
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834 ‑ 1903), Nocturne, 1878. Lithotint on blue‑gray paper laid down on white wove paper, 6 3/4 x 10 1/4 in. (17.2 x 26 cm.) Collection of the Speed Art Museum, James Abbott McNeill Whistler Lithographs from the Steven L. Block Collection, gift of Steven L. Block, and an additional gift from Mrs. W. L. Lyons Brown.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) influenced two generations of European and American artists in the late nineteenth century. As provocative in personality as he was in art, Whistler was a major player in the artistic turmoil of the times. Whistler’s new approaches included a disdain for the narrative and moral traditions of French and British art and the promotion of his belief in “Art for Art’s sake” meaning that art was an end in itself. He was skilled in multiple media creating over 500 oil paintings in addition to pastels, watercolors, drawings, and exceptional prints. His etchings, lithographs, and drypoints—executed with meticulous care on the finest papers—gained him substantial fame.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, The Giudecca; Note in Flesh Colour, 1879-1880. Pastel on gray wove paper, (15.9 x 25.4 cm) Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.

This exhibit encompasses a sampling of Whistler’s subjects and media. The Steven L. Block Collection from the Speed Art Museum, forming the core of the exhibition, is a comprehensive and rich resource to study the full range of the artist’s lithographic career. It is complemented by etchings and drawings from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, and paintings from other private and public collections.