James A. M. Whistler: Art For Art’s Sake

The afternoon session of Swann’s April 29 auction of Old Master Through Modern Prints opens with more than 90 exceptional prints by James A.M. Whistler from a private collection, offered in their own catalogue. 

Lot 312: The Pierrot, etching and drypoint, 1889. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.
 
Lot 261: Venus, etching and drypoint, 1859. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.

  

Whistler often referred to his works musically, entitling several as “nocturnes,” or “arrangements.” He found metaphor in music where his visual pieces sought to create a non-narrative purity of emotion for the viewer in the way that musical compositions create a mood for the listener. 
 

 

Lot 301: Nocturne: Palaces, etching and drypoint, 1879-80. Estimate $40,000 to $60,000.
 
Lot 263: The Music Room, etching and drypoint, 1859. Estimate $2,500 to $3,000.
 
Whistler was also known for championing the phrase, “Art for art’s sake,” the English translation of the French credo “l’art pour l’art.” Popular in the late nineteenth century, he commended this idea: that art is truer to form once removed from its traditional moral and didactic functions. In other words, art is most authentic when it’s made, as he said, “independent of all claptrap.”
 
Lot 296: The Two Doorways, etching and drypoint, 1879-80. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.
 
Lot 271: Rotherhithe, etching and drypoint, 1860. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.