London Bridge

A view of the bridge, with river craft near it; masts beyond and to the left; unsigned.

Maker(s)
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)
Historical period(s)
1881
Medium
Watercolor over graphite on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 17.5 x 27.8 cm (6 7/8 x 10 15/16 in)
Geography
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
F1905.115a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Watercolor

Keywords
bridge, river, United States, water
Provenance

To 1905
Thomas Way Sr. (1827-1915), London, or Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913), London, to 1905 [1]

From 1905 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Thomas Way Sr. or Thomas Robert Way in 1905 [2]

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

Notes:

[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 20A, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Thomas Way Sr. and his son, Thomas Robert Way, were lithographers who worked closely with Whistler on several of his projects. They helped with the printing of his etchings, as well as the printing of Whistler’s promotional materials. Both Thomas Way Sr. and Thomas Robert Way owned many Whistler works. Thomas Way Sr. acquired several of these works at the time of Whistler’s bankruptcy, and he passed some of them on to his son (see The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903, ed. Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp, On-line Edition, People, biographies of Thomas Way and Thomas Robert Way; http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/correspondence).

Charles Lang Freer acquired many Whistler pieces from the Ways. However, museum records do not always specify whether it was the younger or elder Way who was the source of a particular object. Further, archival sources indicate that the junior Way sometimes acted on behalf of his father: whilst negotiating the sale of his own Whistler works to C.L. Freer, he would concurrently negotiate the sale of some of his father’s Whistler works to Freer. In cases where it is unclear whether it was the junior or senior Way who actually owned a piece acquired by C.L. Freer, the provenance record will simply state that the object was purchased from “Thomas Way Sr. or Thomas Robert Way.”

[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)

Charles Lang Freer 1854 - 1919

Description

A view of the bridge, with river craft near it; masts beyond and to the left; unsigned.

Label

Whistler's decision to paint London Bridge in a glowing gray and gold palette recalls the expressive images of bridges on the Thames by J.M.W. Turner. Turner's impact upon Whistler remains an issue still ripe for exploration. Whistler had copied Turner's work by 1855, and he probably viewed the exhibition of Turner's paintings at the National Gallery in London in 1857. However, standard biographies tell us that Whistler "reviled" Turner. Whistler complained that "neither Turner nor Ruskin had the brains to carry on tradition." Turner's art was championed by the art critic John Ruskin, who later became Whistler's adversary in the famous libel suit. This connection may well have something to do with the negative verbiage on Turner that Whistler left behind. However, some of Turner's titles, like Shade and Darkness or Light and Color seem to presage Whistler's aesthetic concerns and watercolors like London Bridge offer visual evidence that Whistler did not revile Turner completely.

Published References
  • Robert H. Getscher. Whistler and Venice. Ann Arbor. pl. 41.
  • Margaret F. MacDonald. James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours : A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, 1995. .
  • Burns A. Stubbs Freer Gallery of Art. Paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and copper plates by and attributed to American and European artists, together with a list of original Whistleriana in the Freer Gallery of Art. Occasional Papers Series 1, Washington, D.C. p. 18.
  • Thomas Robert Way. Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the artist. London. p. 59.
  • Donald Holden. Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes. New York. p. 75, pl. 27.
  • Thomas Robert Way G. R. Dennis. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation by T.R. Way and G.R. Dennis. London, 1903. p. 96.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 179, pl. 97.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum