In his series of nighttime paintings of the Thames, Whistler emulated the restricted palette and spare detail of Japanese prints. He would sit in a boat at night to memorize the quiet river scene, with its subtle shades of color, and then paint it quickly in his studio before the memory faded.
A friend suggested the term “nocturne”—a short and dreamy musical composition suggestive of night—to describe this kind of painting. Whistler enthusiastically adopted the name.
Because of the handling and color of some of the surface paint, the authenticity of this painting had previously been brought into question. It was recently accepted by an expert as a true Whistler, albeit one with some touch-ups by another hand.
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