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Whistler's Nocturnes: A Case Study in Musical Modelling


Teniswood-Harvey, A, Whistler's Nocturnes: A Case Study in Musical Modelling, Music in Art, 35, (no. 1-2) pp. 71-83. ISSN 1522-7464 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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The American-born, London-based artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) was a pivotal figure in the transition between nineteenth-century modernism and twentieth-century abstraction. His significance lies largely in his use of music as a model to explore and justify his interest in the self-sufficiency of pictorial technique. Throughout his life, Whistler clearly indicated his musical interest by producing images of music-making (including a portrait of his friend Pablo de Sarasate) and—from 1867 onwards —by using the titles Symphony, Harmony, Variations, Nocturne, Arrangement, Note, Scherzo, Bravura, and Caprice. Most significantly however, the actual language and experience of music informed his approach to color and composition. Whistler’s Nocturnes—images without musical subject matter—are used as a case study to demonstrate the ways in which he emulated musical operations in his art. Illustrating the aesthetic and formal similarities between these Nocturnes and their musical counterpart, discussed are the ways in which Whistler modeled his approach to color on musical tonality; referenced the visual layout of a score and the texture of music; and employed musical elements such as rhythm, pulse, attack and decay, counterpoint and melodic voicing in his art.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:music, art, iconography, interdisciplinary, Nocturne, Whistler, Chopin
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Art history, theory and criticism
Research Field:Art theory
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:Arts not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Teniswood-Harvey, A (Dr Arabella Teniswood-Harvey)
ID Code:67767
Year Published:2010
Deposited By:Conservatorium of Music
Deposited On:2011-03-07
Last Modified:2015-02-23

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