Copy of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Silver 1872–78

Copy of Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Silver 1872-78
Acrylic on paper. Zoom in to see the subtle highlights.

This is a copy of another painting I found in Mystical Landscapes: From Vincent Van Gogh to Emily Carr. I’m not quite sure why this one is called Nocturne in Blue and Silver. Unlike many of Whistler’s other nocturnes, I couldn’t see any blue in this one.

Some notes:

  • I love this painting for a number of reasons: It has so much atmosphere, and when I look at it, I feel like I’m looking at a real nighttime scene. I love the soft edges, how close the values are, the very subtle shifts in grey in the sky and water, and the single red highlight. I actually think that highlight makes the painting.
  • I used Mars Black, Magnesium White, Yellow Oxide, and Cadmium Red Medium (hue) to paint it. At first, I thought I might be able to use Payne’s Grey to make the greys, but it’s on the cool side, and the greys in the painting look warm to me. So I used Mars Black instead.
  • What at first looked like black (in the darkest parts of the painting) was nowhere near it. I had to lighten the Mars quite a bit to achieve it.
  • On the closeness of the values, my copy has more contrast than the original did.
  • I made the yellow highlights with a mix of Yellow Oxide and Mars Black. When I mixed it on my palette, it looked quite green, but in context in the painting, it looks just right. That’s simultaneous contrast for you!
  • I was surprised I had to lighten the red to get the right shade. Red is a darker value than you think.
  • I found it hard to create the soft edges with scumbling on paper. It’s much easier on canvas.
  • In the original, the texture of the canvas adds to the atmosphere, I think.
  • I didn’t notice this when I used the image in the book as my reference, but looking at another image online, I think the dark shape above the centre on the left is a boat or ship.

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