JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER SIGNED PHOTOGRAPH “SYMPHONY IN GREY AND GREEN – THE OCEAN” FROM WILLIAM GRAY’S NOCTURNES, MARINES & CHEVALET PIECES, 1893
Choice toned silver print “Symphony in Grey and Green – The Ocean” signed “Whistler” in pencil below the photograph on the mount by the artist together with his “butterfly” monogram. Image 7.5 x 9.75” on photographer’s mount 21” x 15.5” overall. Age-toned, dust soiling with edge wear. Left bottom corner missing with crack bottom center in mat.
JAMES MCNEILL WHISTLER American painter and etcher, working mainly in London and in Paris; achieved recognition by a series of great painting, including The Little White Girl and the famous Portrait of the Painter’s Mother [Whistler’s Mother].
From the portfolio of photographs by William Gray entitled “Nocturnes – Marines – Chevalet Pieces”, London, ca. 1893. The original portfolio had been photographed during Whistler’s successful 1892 exhibition at the Goupil Gallery in London. Nigel Thorp, in his study of Whistler’s photographs in the Glasgow University Library noted that in 1892 the proposal was made to issue and album of photographs of the works included in the exhibition Nocturenes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces [William Gray of Glasgow was chosen to photograph the painting]. Reproductions of his paintings had been available in other mediums before then but Whistler was certain now that he wanted photographic reproductions and photographs rather than photogravures, because photograph were in his view ‘more artistic’. In June,1892 Thompson, the manager of the Goupil Gallery came to Paris to discuss the album and other matters with Whistler, but progress was slow, not least because of Whistler’s insistence that all the details should be correct – the wording, the letterpress arrangement, the color of the mounts, the size of the margins, the design of the portfolio, the blocking on the cover the use of the right butterfly for as he wrote to Thompson, ‘this work must be perfect of its kind’. By the end of 1893 thirty-three signed copies and twenty-seven unsigned copies of the set had been sold. Whistler has long maintained an interest in photograph and was one of the first artists of his generation to recognize its commercial potential.