Nocturne: Furnace, One of the 'Twenty-six Etchings,' or the 'Second Venice Set'

Accession Number

Nocturne: Furnace, One of the 'Twenty-six Etchings,' or the 'Second Venice Set'

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching and drypoint, printed in brown ink on laid paper, trimmed to platemark

6 7/16 in. x 8 15/16 in. ( 16.4 cm x 22.7 cm )

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
Nocturne: Furnace, from Twenty-six Etchings,
or the Second Venice Set
Fourth state of seven (Kennedy 213)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.392
From his earliest prints, Whistler showed an interest in depicting men working. Here his image of The Forge from the Thames Set is essentially relocated to the humid gloom of the Venetian night and combined with his repeated motif of doorways. This nocturne gives the viewer little actual information, revealing only two figures in their respective pools of light—the person looking out from the window at the left and the man at work revealed by the blast of heat and light from the furnace deep within the interior space.
Here the deep chiaroscuro effects and nighttime setting recall Rembrandt, but Whistler has created an atmospheric image of spectral loneliness that is uniquely his. As fellow artist Otto Bacher (1856–1909) observed, “He made etched lines feel like air against solids; that is the impression that some of his rich doorways of Venice gave me.”

Subject matter
Nocturne: Furnace brings together in one image several of the recurring themes in Whistler's art: the nocturne itself; images of men working at forges or furnaces (in this instance perhaps a glass-blower); scenes viewed through or framed by doorways. Here, plate tone evokes the gloom of the dark canals at night and the figure of the man working at the furnace continues Whistler's interest in Dutch interiors and in images of working men.

Physical Description
Viewed at night from the water, a man works deep inside an interior that is brightly lit from an unseen light source. Surrounding the threshold are dark lines indicating the shadowy exterior space. To the left of the doorway is a window that is partly open to reveal a figure standing facing outward towards the viewer.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area

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blast furnaces
interior views
working class

& Author Notes

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