Two piers of a bridge soar in the upper half of the image, including the span with pedestrians and the railing at the top of the work. In the foreground, the water and reflections at the foot of the bridge dominate. Between the piers smoke stacks can be seen in the distance.
Although "The Tall Bridge" was drawn for the publication "Piccadilly", the periodical went bankrupt and the copies that had been printed on plate paper and intended for circulation were all tossed out. Only a handful of the copies printed for "Piccadilly" were saved, of which this is one.
Whistler's low vantage point gives the twin piers of the old Battersea Bridge an heroic stature. As with "The Broad Bridge", distant views of the city are visible between the piers; the pedestrian walkway is more completely shown.
Two men smoking long-stem pipes are seen sitting on a balcony. Behind them are visible the masts of ships along the bank, and further behind them in the distance a river sweeps towards the left. Buildings crowd the shore and boats are shown moored or in the river.
Whistler spent several months in the commercial districts of London during 1859 and his etchings of the warehouses, docks, and people of Battersea and, in this instance Wapping, became the foundation of the Thames Set etchings, published in 1871. Densely clustered lines and careful observation characterize these views along the Thames. Charles Baudelaire celebrated the modernity of these views of London when a group of them were shown in Paris in 1862, describing them as “subtle and lively as improvisation and inspiration,” expressing with their “wonderful tangles of rigging, yardarms and rope; farragos of fog, furnaces and corkscrews of smoke; the profound and intricate poetry of a vast capital.”
A man in a cap sits in a rowboat in the foreground, his chin on his hand looking at the viewer. A number of other boats, all unoccupied, create a barrier between the man and the open expanse of the river that curves towards the left in the distance. The water's edge is congested with wooden buildings and ships, some in dry dock.
In 1859, Whistler spent several months living in Wapping and Rotherthite, creating a number of etchings depicting the bustling commercial docks and warehouses that fringed the Pool of London. These views of modern life represented a departure from traditionally elevated subject matter of art, including scenes from the Bible and ancient history. The French poet Charles Baudelaire had encouraged contemporary artists to find 'the heroism of modern life' in contemporary subjects; when Baudelaire saw these views of London, he lauded Whistler's work as exactly the kind of new approach that he had hoped to inspire in artists.
A group of people are seen on the balcony of a building; a number of the women hold parasols against the bright light. On the floor above are two windows with balconies; people can also be observed looking downward. Above these windows are indications of the roofline and chimneys. Below the balcony are pilasters or brackets indicating architectural detail of the ground floor.
The president of France, Marie Francois Sadi Carnot (1837-1894) was assassinated on June 24, 1894. On July 1, the day of his funeral procession in Paris, Whistler drew two lithographs (the other is "The Little Balcony," 1954/1.444) showing citizens of Paris watching the progress of the cortege from windows and balconies as the procession passed underneath.
On the stone, l.r.: Butterfly monogram Signed, in pencil, on the mount: Whistler [Whistler's hand?] Collector's mark: T.R.W. (in rectangle) Thomas Robert Way. Lugt 246 On the sheet, in pencil, in T. R. Way's hand, l.r.: nocturne no. 5 On verso, in pencil, u.l.: Way
Set at night, a man in a lighter or small boat is seen in the foreground; in the distance stands the silhouettes of various buildings, including smokestacks, a clock tower, and a church spire, all of which are reflected in the water's surface, as well as reflections of lights and smoke.
This scene along the Thames shows industrial Battersea just opposite Whsitler's own home in the Chelsea region of London. Along the far bank were (reading left to right--although the objects are reversed by the printing process) the spire of St. Mary's church, the slag heap and smoke stacks of the Morgan Company, including the company's office tower known as "Mr. Ted Morgan's Folly."
The Nocturne was Whistler's signature creation and embodied many of Whistler's principal theories about art, including the translation of the everyday into the poetic and beautiful through the artist's creative process. Many of his Nocturnes began from drawings and sketches done from memory. Whistler's "Ten O'Clock" lecture provides a description that perfectly captures the intention and effect of his nocturnes, such as this:
"And when the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili, and the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairy-land is before us—then the wayfarer hastens home; the working man and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, case to understand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who, for once, has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone."
This painting shows a man seated on a bench, facing the viewer. He leans forward slightly and his right hand reaches across his body to point toward a group of coins on the ground. He is dressed in tattered clothing and his feet are bare. The bench where he is seated is inscribed with the letters: P. Q. P. C. /T. T. This is an outdoor scene with open sky in the background and some vegetation on a ledge above him, but there are no details to indicate the exact location. Another man is shown in the background at the right, walking hunched over and using a staff. There is a strong contrast between dark and light in this painting. The figure of the walking man and the dark shapes of buildings are outlined against the light backdrop of the sky. A strong warm light, from the left side of the painting, highlights the knees, hand and upper body of the seated man.
This painting is a portrait of the Greek philosopher, Crates of Thebes. The writings of biographer, Diogenes Laertius, relate that Crates gave up his wealth to devote himself to the Cynic philosophy. The Cynics embraced poverty and hardship and spoke against social conventions which they believed were an impediment to living in accord with nature. Crates was nicknamed, "Door Opener" from his habit of entering houses to offer advice. A saying attributed to him was, " That a man ought to study philosophy, up to the point of looking on generals and donkey drivers in the same light."
Here, Fetti has painted the philosopher, dressed in ragged clothing, as if he is speaking directly to the viewer. Crates is pointing to some coins on the ground beside him, perhaps a reference to his disgarded wealth or his life of poverty. The meaning of the initials carved on his bench is not known.
A partial view of a four-story building, concentrating on pairs of windows on each story and a wrought iron fence on the ground level. Windows have window boxes or balconies; on the ground level are several dogs on either side and a pair of milk cans at the center in front of the fence.
Whistler focused on lithography over etching during the 1890s, making his etched views of Paris, that were never printed in editions, quite rare.
Whistler uses a partial representation to evoke the whole, playing on the theme and variation offered by the pairs of windows on each floor of the building, as well as for the dogs and cans in the foreground. Another playful touch is the way he employs his "butterfly" signature on the left side to balance the join on the downspout on the right side of the image.
Text: Team Work Wins! Your Work Here Makes Their Work Over There Possible - With Your Help They Are Invincible - Without It They Are Helpless - Whatever You Make, Machine Gun or Harness, Cartridges or Helmet, They Are Waiting For It. Issued By Authority Ordnance Department, U.S. Army