Nocturne: Silver and Opal–Chelsea

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
early 1880s
Oil on wood panel
H x W: 20.3 x 25.7 cm (8 x 10 1/8 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

nocturne, river, United States, water

To 1902
Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934), London, to 1902 [1]

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Henry Studdy Theobald in 1902 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Whistler List, Purchases from Thoebald, pg. 1, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Henry Studdy Theobald (C.L. Freer source) 1847-1934
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


This is the smallest of Whistler's nocturnes in oil. Although the painting at first appears almost completely abstract, Chelsea Bridge is faintly visible in the center, dividing the night sky from the dark river below. In 1892, a newspaper reviewer accurately noted that "the suspension bridge seems to grow on you and then to fade away just as in the foggy twilight, when the lamps are being lit, it really does."

Quotation from the Star, March 19, 1892, in Whistler press-cutting book 13:15, Birnie Philip Collection, Glasgow University Library.

Published References
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. vol. 2: pl. 182.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 53, fig. 37.
  • Kenneth Myers. Mr. Whistler's Gallery: Pictures at an 1884 Exhibition. Washington. cat. 28, pp. 54-55.
  • Donald Holden. Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes. New York. p. 83, pl. 31.
  • Rebecca N. Mitchell. Victorian Lessons in Empathy and Difference. p. 109, fig. 2.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 127, pl. 31.
  • Katharine Lochnan. Turner Whistler Monet. London. p. 144, fig. 53.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 68, p. 167.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 149, p. 170.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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