James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Nocturne: Venice, 1880
Pastel on dark brown wove paper
8 x 11 7/8 in. (20.3 x 30.2 cm)
Purchased by Henry Clay Frick, 1915
With the sparest touches of blue and yellow pastel, Whistler captures the combined effect of natural and artificial light — the evening sky and the warm glow of gaslights reflected in the water. One of some hundred pastels the artist made during his fourteen-month stay in Venice, this drawing represents a distant view of the city from the far end of the Riva degli Schiavoni. Strokes of black suggest activity on the darkened shore, where Whistler also includes the stylized butterfly that was his signature.