NGA acquires significant painting by American Impressionist, James McNeill Whistler
In a coup for Australia, the National Gallery of Australia has secured James A. Whistler’s Harmony in blue and pearl: The Sands, Dieppe 1885.
Purchased for AU$1.4million and with the support of a handful of generous private donors from Australia and the US, this rare seascape painted on a small scale belongs to a group of works described as ‘superficially, the size of your hand, but artistically, as large as a continent.’*
‘Notwithstanding the fact that Whistler was American, we intend to display this marvel of rapid brushwork in the room with our Australian Impressionist collection, featuring masterworks by Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin,’ said Gerard Vaughan, NGA Director.
‘Whistler’s connection with this turning point in Australian painting—considered highly innovative and contemporary for the time—makes this work relevant to our national collection.’
Whistler’s approach to depicting landscape through flat planes of colour painted on 9” x 5” cigar box lids sparked the imagination of Australian artist Tom Roberts through his encounter with Whistler’s London exhibition in 1884, which directly influenced Australia’s first avant-garde exhibition, the ‘9 by 5 Impressions’ show in Melbourne in 1889.
Harmony in blue and pearl: The Sands, Dieppe was purchased with the assistance of Allan J Myers AC QC and Maria J Myers AC, Andrew and Tracey Sisson, the American Friends of the NGA with the support of the Dr Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation and the Neilson Foundation
*Charles Lang Freer and Henry Harper Benedict 1901. Freer was one of the biggest collectors of Whistler’s work, which are now held in the Freer Museum, Washington DC.