American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) arrived in London in 1859 and discovered in its neighborhoods and inhabitants an inexhaustable source of aesthetic inspiration. His images of the city created over the next two decades represent one of his most successful and profound assaults on the contemporary art establishment. In the Sackler’s first major Whistler exhibition, more than seventy works—paintings of famed London sites in Chelsea and along the Thames River, as well as prints and rarely seen drawings, watercolors, and pastels—present a captivating survey of the artist’s unique depictions of a rapidly changing urban environment. The exhibition culminates with some of Whistler’s stunning, iconic nocturnes, including Blue and Gold—Old Battersea Bridge (1872–77).
Kiyochika: Master of the Night (Sackler, March 29–July 27, 2014), an exhibition of Meiji-period woodblock prints, resonates with the Whistler show both in style and substance. As a painter and printmaker, Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915) excelled at atmospheric, moody images of Tokyo after dark—urban nocturnes that, like Whistler’s images of London, adapted earlier artistic methods to reflect a new and shifting reality.