James Whistler, USA - A Review by Kris WestreichNocturne - Palaces, etching, 1879
The prints in this exhibition were wonderful. They allowed the viewer to trace his artistic development through his etchings. At the beginning, things were tightly rendered and detail-filled. Towards the end, the prints tend to describe through suggestion rather than detail. One thing I saw that I never considered was the way Whistler used the plate tone to establish value. He will leave more plate tone in an area that he wants to be darker and wipe out others that he wants to be lighter. In this way he challenges the idea of a print having to be exactly the same each time. My two favorites of the exhibition were “Nocturne: Palaces” and “Weary.” They both tend to put more detail in certain parts of the print, and leave others as merely outlines or as indications rather than full-blown descriptions. Some of them almost approach an abstract emptiness, such as in “Old Battersea” bridge. Of course, the draftsmanship present is also very accomplished in these etchings.