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The Thames

This image of the factories and warehouses along the River Thames in London is considered among Whistler’s most poetic prints. Its simplicity of form and vertical composition recall elegant Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts, while the delicate layering of tones and atmospheric quality suggest a tranquility that belies its harsh, industrial subject matter. Its somber mood is made more poignant by the knowledge that Whistler was drawing the print from the window of the Savoy Hotel, where his wife Beatrice lay dying of cancer. Although the scene is alive with activity—barges on the river, a train on the Charing Cross Bridge, and hansoms along the foreground Embankment—the sky appears gloomy and overcast, perhaps reflecting the artist’s own emotional state. It was one of his last nocturnes.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes several other Thames subjects by Whistler: a chalk and pastel drawing Chelsea Reach/The Thames (Eskenazi Museum of Art 78.32.1) and etchings Billingsgate (Eskenazi Museum of Art 68.128) and Rotherhithe from the “Thames Set” (Eskenazi Museum of Art 71.100).

James McNeill Whistler
American, 1834–1903
The Thames
1896
Lithotint on paper
Image: 10 ½ x 7 5/8 in. (26.7 x 19.4 cm); sheet: 14 ½ x 9 in. (36.8 x 22.8 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 85.66.9