James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Sunset: Venice, 1880
Chalk and pastel on beige paper
4 5/8 × 9 3/4 in. (11.7 × 24.8 cm)
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
From his house on the Riva degli Schiavoni, Whistler evokes, in a delicate scribbled line, the familiar forms of Santa Maria della Salute and the Dogana at the center and the Giudecca on the left, fading into evening light. Touches of blue, orange, and white in the sky add movement and a sense of fleeting time as the sun's last rays disappear. In the foreground, reflections of the buildings convey the water's depth and transparency, while strokes of white suggest its shimmering surface. Whistler's extraordinary economy of means here is characteristic of the pastels carried out later in his stay. The artist referred to them as "beauties."