Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W (frame): 100 × 79.7 cm (39 3/8 × 31 3/8 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 11: A Perfect Harmony

Oil painting

beach, landscape, river, United States

To 1904
William Marchant & Co., London, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from William Marchant & Co. in 1904 [2]

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


[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 12, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Purchased in April 1904.

[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)

William Marchant & Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854 - 1919


Whistler exhibited this painting both as a “Harmony” and as a “Symphony” rather than as a Nocturne, but this view of Battersea at dawn shares the same features as many of the artist’s moonlit scenes of the Thames. Thinly painted, it conveys a sense of space and movement through the sweeping brushstrokes that move across the canvas from left to right. Whistler’s butterfly signature appears on a cartouche in the manner of Japanese printmakers.

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. pl. 45.
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Whistler: The Artist and the Man. Smithsonian Institution Radio Program, vol. 10, no. 3 New York. p. 13.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 20, 120, pl. 23.
  • Charles Henry Caffin. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: Lecture at the Detroit Museum of Art. Detroit, Friday, April 23, 1909. p. 43.
  • Linda Merrill. A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin. Washington and London. p. 51, fig. 24.
  • American Art: Smithsonian American Art Museum. vol. 27, no. 1., 2013. p. 54, fig. 4.
  • Linda Merrill. An Ideal Country: Paintings by Dwight William Tryon in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and Hanover and London, 1990. p. 110, fig. 81.
  • David Park Curry. Charles Lang Freer and American Art. vol. 118, no. 258, special issue., August 1983. pp. 168-179, fig. 7.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum