James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
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James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

View in Venice, Looking toward the Molo

Details
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
View in Venice, Looking toward the Molo
black, yellow and blue chalks on brown paper
10 x 7 in. (25.5 x 17.8 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Robinson and Fishers, London, 7 April 1938, lot 25.
with Colnaghi, London, where purchased by
Carroll Carstairs, 28 August 1939, and by descent to his brother
James Stewart Carstairs; Parke-Bernet, New York, 22 May 1943, lot 126, as View across the Lagoon.
Harold Carstairs.
with Macbeth Gallery, New York, where purchased by
R. H. Tannahill, January 1944.
Ernest Kanzler, New York; Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 1969, lot 73, as Venice.
Anonymous sale: Sotheby's, New York, 24 May 1990, lot 122, as View across the Lagoon.
Literature
M.F. MacDonald, Notes, Harmonies, & Nocturnes: Small Works by James McNeill Whistler, New York, 1984, p. 65, no. 83.
The Magazine Antiques, London, 1985, p. 884, illustrated.
R.H. Getscher, James Abbott McNeill Whistler: Pastels, New York, 1991, pp. 102-3, illustrated fig. 32, as View across the Lagoon.
M.F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1995, pp. 271-72, no. 742, illustrated.
A. Grieve, Whistler’s Venice, New Haven, 2000, p. 111, illustrated fig. 131.
Exhibited
New York, Knoedler & Co., Notes, Harmonies, & Nocturnes: Small Works by James McNeill Whistler, November - December 1984, no. 83.
New York, Spanierman Gallery, The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism, 12 November 2005 - 7 January 2006, unnumbered.
New York, Spanierman Gallery, American Paintings: 1850-1965, 16 November 2006 - 13 January 2007, no. 17.
Basel, Beyeler Foundation, Venice from Canaletto and Turner to Monet, 28 September 2008 - 25 January 2009, no. 109.
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

The present pastel dates from 1879-1880, a tumultuous period in Whistler's life following the conclusion of his notorious libel trial with Ruskin in November 1878. Despite Whistler’s victory, he was awarded a mere farthing in damages, and forced to pay court fees. Whistler’s debts were insurmountable, and he declared bankruptcy, having to auction off his personal effects at White House. In 1879 Whistler was commissioned by The Fine Art Society to create twelve etchings, and he seized the opportunity to escape London and left immediately for Venice with his model and mistress, Maud Franklin. This move instigated a period of great artistic productivity, and in 1880 he executed fifty etchings and over ninety pastels in Venice, from which this study derives. Whistler began increasingly to work in pastel at this time due to the increased mobility it offered whilst moving around Venice to sketch. John Walker comments that the style Whistler developed in Venice was ‘totally different from that of his earlier work – more abstract and dependent on a minimum of calligraphic lines’ (J. Walker, James McNeill Whistler, New York, 1987, p. 86.). This increasingly minimalist approach is evident here, as Whistler uses a scarcity of line to convey an atmospheric scene, instantly evocative of the Venice canals.

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