It's hard to describe to those unfamiliar with drawing - and specifically, printmaking - what exactly makes these remarkable. Everyone can see Whistler's incredible attention to detail, but the real genius lies in his innovation and creativity flowing from every line. Each tiny dash and halting line contributes to a textured overall impression of the scene. All of these date from Whistler's visit in 1879-80.
At left is an 1894 photo of Venice by master Alfred Stieglitz.
Choose a detail below to see one of Whistler's beautiful prints of Venice. Use your browser's back button to return to this page.
In the first picture above, a totally unique composition creates a dynamic layout that is still perfectly balanced.
In the second picture, seemingly random lines suggest the natural buoyancy of branches. And each one of the people has a clear personality, in only a few lines.
In the third picture above, wispy lines perfectly evoke the atmosphere by the water.
The fourth is my favorite, which I found in a printmaking book several years ago. It conveys such an incredibly high amount of artistic "information" - people, birds, clouds, the square, everything - enough to transport you back to that exact day.
The fifth demonstrates his mastery of texture - leaves, stone, and shadow.
The sixth and seventh prints show his amazing use of perspective. Every one of these dozens of people is the correct size in an extremely complex layout - from the tiniest dots in the background to the chatting couples in front.
The eighth picture shows how Whistler leaves much of the print unfinished, focusing your eye through the print by using varying amounts of texture and detail.
Visit my page of my favorite Sargent works, which includes some watercolors