Whistler and his Circle in Venice
In 1879 Whistler was reeling from financial insolvency and a lack of new patrons resulting from adverse publicity. The Fine Arts Society, a prominent London commercial gallery, approached the American expatriate artist about a commission to etch a series of prints of Venice for December holiday sales. In September Whistler departed for Venice with the intention of producing twelve etchings over a period of three months. In the end, Whistler remained in Venice not just for a season, but for fourteen months.
During his time in the city he executed more than fifty prints, a handful of paintings, and approximately one hundred pastels. On returning to England, the exhibitions of Venetian etchings and pastels re-established his artistic reputation, and marked a positive turning point in his career. Whistler's stylistic innovations and the influence of his vision on subsequent generations of artists is the subject ofWhistler and His Circle in Venice, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the artist's death.
In both pastel and etching Whistler generally eschewed certain subjects: landmarks of architecture, interiors, and large-scale figural scenes are unusual in his Venetian oeuvre. The artist recorded few images of the Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, or the Grand Canal. When Whistler did record a notable site, as in the etching of the Piazzetta, he drew the image directly on to a prepared etching plate allowing the normal reversal of the printing process to render the scene in mirror image.
Whistler captured the flavor of Venice in an unprecedented way, significantly affecting his contemporaries and later generations of image makers who sought to describe modern Venice for themselves. Many artists attempted to emulate the example of the American expatriate, some by adopting his new approach to the fabric of the city, others by mimicking nuances of his style.
Whistler and His Circle in Venice is organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The exhibition and its companion catalogue are supported by the Arthur Ross Foundation; Mrs. Martha Ann Healy; the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. George T. Johnson; Furthermore, the publication program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; The Women's Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art; and the President's Exhibition Fund. Additional support has been provided by the Italian Government Tourist Board, Alitalia, the Region of Veneto and the Danieli Hotel.