Symphony in Black and White highlights a lesser-known aspect of James McNeill Whistler’s career: his works on paper. During his day, Whistler was internationally renowned for his etchings, which helped fuel a print revival during the last half of the nineteenth century. Through his prints, Whistler balanced his need to appeal to the market with his desire to innovate. His first set of published prints—The French Set—were created in the late 1850s, when he was a young up-and-comer in Paris who had aligned himself with French Realism. Soon thereafter, he settled in London, where he produced prints of the rough and tumble docks along the River Thames. Many of these prints were not published until 1871 as part of the Thames Set, and its popularity led Whistler to return to the shores of the Thames again and again throughout the next three decades to create etchings and lithographs that pictured scenes along the river. As a mature artist, Whistler also created prints that represented many other magnificent cities in Europe, most notably Venice (the First Venice Set of 1880 and the Second Venice Set of 1886) and Amsterdam (the Amsterdam Set of 1890, his last). Prints from the five aforementioned portfolios are featured in this exhibition, along with numerous other etchings and two lithographs.
Curated by Associate Professor of Art and Music Histories Sascha Scott and her students enrolled in the fall 2017 courses HOA 498: Senior Seminar: Research and Professional Practice and HOA 655: Proseminar in Graduate Research Methods and Scholarly Writing.