19 January 2024

Whistler, an American cloud over Britain

James mcNeill Whistler, 1834-1903, (American)
As I'm apt to say in these pages, if a painting doesn’t get better with time, it diminishes (a fact for all Art, I believe). And here is a picture of such spontaneous clarity that it takes one's breath away. I cannot remember where it came from but it's been sitting on my desktop for years now, and I've certainly already written about it previously, but today, I see that there is always more to love about it.

How does a painter render such intimacy within the corners of such a vast and open panorama? The Dutch were brilliant at this style, indeed, they invented it, but with their small brushes,  these small pictures can often feel tight, self-conscious and repressed like their Calvinist lives.

This is clearly a landscape in a more classic vein but it also feels so British, upon whose love for the wild land it reposes. It's a small study and looks to be done out in the fields 'à la Française' and perhaps executed on a hard panel. This horizontal landscape painting gives the sky prominence, as if to say;
"Everything below is in order, now go play in the clouds and have fun".

Whistler's interest, his real love, I believe, are the clouds and sea. This is a painter who, like Turner, and Constable, really loved the 'Northern' sky, the oftentimes savage brutality of stormy spray that allowed these great men to let go and play like children. 

The drawing of the farm (already remarkable) seems to hide shyly away atop a horizon of gentle rustic fields. This is just enough to glue these descending meadows to the playful  sky overhead. Playful and rendered abstractly, these clouds appear like watercolour washes.

More to be revealed.

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