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Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket

Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket is a painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler in 1875. The painting was first shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in London in 1877. The painting is part of two workers, the other one being Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Firewheel.

Nocturne in Black and Gold
Nocturne in Black and Gold

The painting was inspired by the Cremonese Garden which was a pleasure resort in London. This painting is also known for its inception of a lawsuit between Whistler and the art critic John Ruskin. There was a lot of controversy around this painting on whether it could be considered art or not. The painting was part of the Art for Art’s Sake movement.

A Composition of Nocturne in Black and Gold

The painting is composed of subtle and dull colors of blue, green yellow and some black. The smoke shows the distinction between the water and the sky. The fog represents the ‘rocket’ in the title of the painting. The dabs of yellow add some emotions to the painting.

Whistler used the splatter tech pique to paint this. This type of painting was in a lot of contention since many critiques did not feel that it was painting or artwork with this technique.

However, it can be seen that Whistler put a lot of effort into this painting. The dark colors are broken with splatters of bright ones. The brush strokes are very loose and this painting fits into the Impressionist style of painting.

Nocturne in Black and Gold’s Concept 

The Nocturnes were a series of paintings which portrayed different nighttimes scenes. According to the artist, they were scenes and not pictures. Whistler went against the set rules of painting and created his own style which did not bode well for many critiques and fellow artists of the time.

The style of painting went against the grain of bringing literature to life, a pattern which was popular among Whistler’s fellow painters. It was believed that these the composition of the scene was not designed to avoid the truth the scene but was meant to reach the deeper meaning and truth.

The painting provided something larger than the physical emotions but go deeper into the personal, intimate emotions which a person have buried inside them. Basically, The Falling Rocket is a synthesis of a firework sky in London. However, a viewer will not be able to figure that out in the beginning.

Controversy about painting Nocturne in Black and Gold

The Falling Rocket created a stir in the artists’ society due to its lack of conformity to the painting styles of the nineteenth century. Art critics like John Ruskin said that The Falling Rocket was Whistler “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” in the Fors Clavigera.

The Falling Rocket

After Ruskin, a renowned critic denounced the painting, it became a shame to own any of Whistler’s pieces. This made him get into financial problems. Whistler then sued Ruskin in the court for libel.

During the proceeding which took place in 1878, the presentation of the painting, which was upside down did not help his case. His explanation of the painting was in vain. While Whistler did not lose, he only won a farthing which led to him declaring bankruptcy.

James Abbott Mcneill Whistler

He was forced to sell and pawn all are belonging to make ends meet. The transcript of The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, his book which was published in 1890 was part of his belongings which he pawned away.

There was conjecture that Ruskin was jealous of whistler and his close relationship with Charles Augustus Howell, who financially helped Whistler during the court case and after it. Others like Henry James spoke out against Ruskin, in support of Whisler after the harsh criticism he was subjected to.

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