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Nocturne in Blue and Silver: The Lagoon, Venice

James Abbott McNeill Whistler1879 - 1880

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Whistler depicts Venice's evocative water-ways from a viewpoint familiar to tourists: with the Ducal Palace behind us, we look south across the lagoon toward the island church of San Giorgio Maggiore at right, and the distant lights of the Lido, then as now a popular resort, along the horizon. Although many painted this view, Whistler took the unconventional approach of showing the scene at night, using mist and darkness to convey its magic. His washes of thinned-down paint make the church's bulky dome and tower seem dreamlike; the muscular gondoliers in the foreground appear as ghostly silhouettes. Only the lights flickering on the horizon seem substantial and real.

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