James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Variations in Violet and Green

Variations in Violet and Green
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Variations in Violet and Green
1871
Oil on canvas
H. 61; W. 35.5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage


Variations in Violet and Green

Variations en violet et vert [Variations in Violet and Green]


Whistler was a refined aesthete and one of the most sensitive interpreters of the fashion for the arts of the Far East which spread through Europe from the 1860s. Variations in Violet and Green marks the apogee of Whistler's Japanese period. The painter has literally transposed the banks of the Thames, the original theme of the composition, into the pictorial world of Japanese prints, devoting his painting entirely to the power of evocation rather to description.

The signs of Whistler's new references are legion, from the vertical format which cleverly uses the void evoked by the milky river to the fluid treatment and use of subtly graded tones. The signature inserted in a cartouche and the frame designed by the artist and signed, like the canvas, with a butterfly, complete his decorative, deeply original aesthetic project.

This example shows the extent to which landscape painting, rethought by Whistler to Japanese standards, counted in the development of Impressionism and its exaltation of atmospheric effects.


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