James McNeill Whistler: FAS Presents Largest Print Exhibition In 40 Years

James McNeill Whistler

The Fine Art Society is presenting an exhibition of prints by James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903). Featuring over 80 works from across his career, including rare and significant pieces. The show is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of his printmaking for over forty years.

A number of rare works will be featured, including 9 from the Amsterdam series (1889), considered by the artist to be his greatest achievement as an etcher. Although Whistler and the gallery discussed publishing this set, it was never issued.There are also three quite different impressions of The Wine Glass (1858), his only still life.

The show includes images of significant women in Whistler’s life including his first lover in Paris, Fumette, Venus (1859) and two lithographs of his wife, Beatrice Godwin, widow of E.W Godwin, architect of Whistler’s White House on Tite Street, London, who also designed the entrance to The Fine Art Society (1881).

Beyond his reputation as a painter and a pioneering printmaker, Whistler turned his exacting eye to all aspects of the design and display of his work. In 1883 Whistler presented ‘Arrangement in White and Yellow’ at The Fine Art Society. In stark contrast to the densely packed salon-style hang of the Royal Academy, Whistler oversaw the transformation of the exhibition format. The show consisted of 51 etchings displayed in white frames hung in a single line.The walls of the gallery were redecorated and covered in white felt, the paintwork and furnishings in bright yellow. The reception to the show was a sensation, described by the press as ‘perhaps the most original of Mr Whistler’s jests’ and yet the radical display became the model for displaying pictures, which still prevails today.

As The Fine Art Society celebrates its 140th anniversary in 2016, (founded in 1876), the exhibition presents one of the first and most illustrious artists represented by the gallery, whose printmaking was crucial in forging his career and reputation.

Gordon Cooke, Director of the gallery and specialist in 19th and 20th century British prints commented: “Whistler’s long association with The Fine Art Society makes this exhibition an appropriate way to mark the 140th anniversary.Whistler is one of the small group of artists whose work as a printmaker alone would ensure their importance in the history of art. He stands with Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso in this respect.”

The exhibition will reflect all phases of the American-born artist’s etching and feature early works, including studies of his family and prints from his first published set, the French Set (1857-58). There followed his etchings of the River Thames made in 1859 – the source of his first fame and reputation in London, and from the First Venice Set, a series of 12 etchings commissioned by the gallery and published in 1880.

Image: James McNeill Whistler Nocturne 1879-80 

James McNeill Whistler Prints 5-29 April – The Fine Art Society 148 New Bond Street, London W1S 2JT 


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