This work, which is a depiction of a fireworks display in London’s Cremorne Gardens, is probably Whistler’s most infamous painting. It was the central issue of a libel suit that involved the art critic John Ruskin and the artist. Ruskin had publicly slandered the work by making the statement, “I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Whistler won the libel suit; however, he was awarded only the token damages of one farthing. This is one of Whistler’s many “Nocturnes,” which are characterized by a moody atmosphere, a subtle palette, and overall tonalist qualities.
Artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American, 1834-1903
Title
  • Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket
Date 1875
Medium Oil on panel
Dimensions Unframed: 23 3/4 × 18 3/8 inches (60.3 × 46.7 cm)
Framed: 36 3/4 × 30 1/4 × 3 1/4 inches (93.3 × 76.8 × 8.3 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Dexter M. Ferry, Jr.
Accession Number 46.309
Department American Art before 1950
On View Modern C235, Level 2 (see map)
the artist;
1892-1940, Samuel Untermyer (New York, New York, USA);
May 10, 1940, Untermyer family's sale, Parke-Bernet, lot 29 (New York, New York, USA).
Charles Sessler, Knoedler (New York, New York, USA).
1946, Scott and Fowles (New York, New York, USA);
1946-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
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