Wadsworth Atheneum

Hartford, CT




The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler from the Steven Block Collection


The celebrated master painter and etcher James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) created more than 175 inventive and poetic lithographs. Eighty-seven of these rarely seen prints belonging to collector Steven Block will be on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, January 12 - March 4, 2001. (left: Lady and Child, 1890-1893, printed on heavy wove paper in yellow, red, blue, brown, green and black, Collection of Stephen Block)

Whistler began to experiment with lithography -- the process of printing an image from a smooth stone onto paper -- in 1878-79, but produced the majority of his lithographs late in his career, from 1887 to 1896. In every medium, Whistler's primary concern was a delicate exploration of line, form, and harmonious tonal effects. So it is not surprising that the artist, who frequently titled his works "Arrangements," "Symphonies," "Nocturnes," or "Harmonies," often referred to his understated, atmospheric lithographs as "Songs on Stone."

Whistler's lithographs encompass a wide variety of subjects -- intimate figure studies and portraits of family and friends, vignettes of tradesmen's shops, views of the Thames and its bridges, London street scenes, and the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. (left: The Winged Hat, 1890, printed on laid paper with O.W.P & A.C.L. watermark, Collection of Stephen Block)

Although Whistler in his day was acclaimed as a leading figure in the revival of lithography, his lithographs had been overlooked until recently. In 1998 the Art Institute of Chicago published a comprehensive catalogue of Whistler's lithographs, the first to appear since 1905.

Since 1978, Steven Block has been selectively amassing the largest private collection of Whistler lithographs extant.

The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler from the Steven Block Collection is organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit museum service organization. The in-house curator is Cynthia Roman, Associate Curator of European Art. (right: The Whitesmiths, Impasse de Carmelites, 1894, printed on paper, signed in pencil, Collection of Stephen Block)

A 96-page softbound catalogue with 90 black and white illustrations, three color plates, a forward by Steven Block, and an introduction by Nesta R. Spink will be available in The Museum Shop.


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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

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