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Nocturne: Furnace

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 208
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 171 x 233 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 12
Known impressions: 46
Catalogues: K.213; M.210; W.183
Impressions taken from this plate  (46)


Whistler used a combination of etching and drypoint in developing the copper plate for Nocturne: Furnace through many states. Marked changes to the figure inside the doorway during the early states were followed by more subtle additions of shading in the latter ones. Inking was as important as the framework of lines on most impressions, for plate tone and selective wiping of the plate created the contrast between the bright glow of a furnace in the interior and the subdued evening light outside on the canals.


Most impressions of Nocturne: Furnace are in dark brown ink, and they are on a variety of papers. Early states include impressions on ivory laid paper with an 'IT' countermark (), cream laid with Strasbourg Lily / 'VG' watermark () and with a 'WW' countermark (), and a sheet with a watermark of two lions ().
Eventually, in the sixth state, Whistler was apparently satisfied with the composition. His impression of the sixth state was printed in black ink on ivory laid paper with ink tone carefully wiped to emphasize the glow of light from the furnace (). He sent the plate to the publishers, Messrs Thibaudeau and Dowdeswell, who in their turn gave it to Émile Frédéric Salmon (1840-1913) for printing. He printed a good clear impression in black ink on pale buff laid paper and also used tone, very lightly, to emphasize the light of the furnace (). However, Whistler then took over the printing of the published edition.
Nocturne: Furnace was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau with the 'Second Venice Set' in 1886. A record of impressions printed by Whistler for this edition lists one delivered on 2 April and two on 3 April, one on 31 July, two on 25 August, and three on 6 October 1886; six on 5 January, sixteen on 8 February and seventeen on 26 February 1887, a total of 48. 8

8: Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, GUW #08717.

Impressions of the seventh state were mostly printed in dark brown ink on cream laid paper (, , ), buff, possibly Asian, paper () and Asian laid paper (, ), all of which contribute to producing a warmer glow of luminous colour. These would have been among those printed in the spring and summer of 1886.
By the final, twelfth state, which was printed in February 1887, Whistler's aims seem to have been modified. While most were printed in dark brown ink on cream and ivory laid papers (, , ) and some in black ink on laid paper () and buff Asian laid (), all were printed with heavy tone, carefully wiped, producing a darker, more sombre and darkly atmospheric effect.
There is also a cancelled impression on ivory laid paper with a Marlowe watermark () - a paper only used for the cancelled impressions of the 'Second Venice Set' - which was acquired by Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) and given to the Art Institute of Chicago, IL, 1933.