James McNeill Whistler was one of the first and most illustrious artists to show in our gallery’s history. The Fine Art Society was the scene of one of his greatest triumphs, the exhibition he called Arrangement in White and Yellow held in 1883. It was a revolutionary show conceived by the artist at a time when the One-Man Show was still a novelty. It is fitting then that his work be the focus of our very first online viewing room to be hosted on our new website.
As an artist, Whistler excelled in many mediums, but it was as an etcher and lithographer that he truly made his influence felt. His career as an original printmaker was extensive, his etchings alone number almost 500. His copper plate illustrations span a wide range of subjects and sitters, from his well-known topographical compositions of London, Venice and Amsterdam, to his intimate portraits of friends and lovers. Whistler had an eye for the familiar, but his real interests lay in the overlooked quotidian activities of street life, often working en plein air, sketching working people, merchants in their shops, and dockers along the water front.
Our viewing room of Whistler prints highlights some of the major aspects of the artists oeuvre featuring a stunning impression of Venus, 1859 - a study of his mistress, Eloise (known as ‘Fumette’); a very rare impression of Penny Passengers, Limehouse, 1860; and two views of Venice, The Little Lagoon, 1879–80 and Riva, No.2, 1879–80, which were both first exhibited at the gallery in 1880 and 1886, respectively, and formed part of Whistler’s First and Second Venice Sets, which were commissioned by The Fine Art Society.