At a time when the preference for replicating nature in a faithful manner was in vogue and many new colours were being introduced to the artists’ palette, Whistler was pursuing different matters.
His critics would point out that he was not a master draughtsman or colourist by the standards of his time, which brings up the question of why his works have endured while those of his peers have faded or disappeared.
Whistler was one of the first to crash the significance of Oriental art and design and his works demonstrate the order and arrangement that set them apart from his contemporaries. His best works hinge on design rather than detail and value harmonies rather than local colour.
In his youth, Whistler lived in Russia and was exposed to much Oriental art in the palaces and museums of Saint Petersburg. This had a great influence on his mature works, which not only exhibit an Eastern sense of order, but also a different treatment of space than that brought forth in the latter part of the Renaissance, up until his time.
The only real fault with Whistler’s body of work is that there just simply isn’t enough of it.
Images courtesy of: www.jamesabbottmcneillwhistler.org