Nocturne: Furnace

Whistler – Nocturne Furnace


James A.M. Whistler (1834-1903), Nocturne: Furnaces, etching and drypoint, 1879-80, signed with the butterfly on the tab and inscribed “imp”. References: Kennedy 213, Glasgow 208, eleventh state (of 12), published in the Second Venice Set. In generally good condition (repaired thin spots upper right and a tiny spot lower right), trimmed by the artist on the platemark except for the tab, 6 5/8 x 9 1/8 inches.

A fine impression, printed in a dark brown/black ink on ivory laid paper. This impression has been meticulously wiped by the artist, generally from the center outward thus illuminating the central furnace and figure; the wiping lines lend a luminous quality to the impression.  The entire right quadrant is left rather dark, as is the area surrounding the furnace, and the areas below the furnace and to the upper left are lighter and shadowy.

In this impression the man within the furnace area holding the tool is clearly illuminated, and we can still see the wooden ceiling of the furnace room. A gondola is in the canal at the left, with a shadow on the water; also shadows from the wall fall on the canal. The figure in the window at the upper left is also rather clearly detailed. The myriad of etching and drypoint lines, together with the heavy layering of plate tone, give the composition a somber atmospheric quality.