Two abstracted bust-length figures, one male and one female, look directly at the viewer with large smiles against a tan background filled with swirling lines and scribbles. The face and eyes of each figure are outlined in thick green, the mouths in thick yellow. The “whites” of the eyes are red, while the pupils are circles of pale purple. From the eyes of the male figure, purple paint drips down his checks; in the female figure, the paint drips upwards.
In “Ups and Downs” two figures, one male and one female, confront the viewer with large smiles. The work gets its title from the purple “tears” that drip down the face of the male figure and upwards on the female figure.
Two men sit on a bench at the lower right. Behind them is a large expanse of water; barges ply the water while smokestacks and buildings are visible on the opposite shore. The overall impression is one of foggy weather and features are generally indistinct.
Whistler found that liminal times of day offered effects that he could translate into a particularly appealing visual poetry. Many of his works sited from the part of Chelsea where he lived looked across the Thames towards the industrial establishments of London; these unpromising views were transformed by his atmospheric and evocative portrayals.
The balustrade of a public park walkway seen at a slight distance acts as a foil for several figures grouped in front of the balustrade. To the left, two women stand talking while a child, with her back facing the viewer looks between the balusters towards the dome of a building in the distance beyond some trees. Too the right of the composition, a seated man and a woman shown in profile are grouped. Two ornamental urns decorate the balustrade.
During the Whistlers' short sojourn in Paris, Whistler frequently depicted scenes in the Luxembourg Gardens in both lithographs and, more rarely, in etchings. He used the architecture of the French formal garden to organize his compositions. Here he employed the balustrade, the dome of the Pantheon, and the urn that aligns with the dome to create a grid to anchor his figures. These prints invariably have an intimate character despite their public setting.