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Gallery Text

Whistler’s most famous nocturnes, or night views, depict the River Thames in London. However, in the 1870s Whistler also painted street scenes of the area near his home and studio in Chelsea, a suburban locale that was quickly being engulfed by the largest city in the world. With thin washes of paint, Whistler built up this mysterious scene depicting a male figure wandering a snowy street. Color was central to Whistler’s paintings, as demonstrated in the title he chose for this work. The blacks and grays of night are contrasted with what Whistler referred to as "gold,” his name for the twinkling, yellowish glow cast by the gaslights that illuminated the streets of Chelsea. It is possible that this painting is now somewhat darker than Whistler intended because he used dark grounds (or preparatory layers) over his canvases. As the paint on top of these grounds becomes more transparent with age, the entire painting darkens.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American (Lowell, MA 1834 - 1903 London, England)
Nocturne in Grey and Gold: Chelsea Snow
Other Titles
Former Title: Harmony in Grey and Gold
Former Title: Nocturne--Grey and Gold Snow
Former Title: Chelsea Nocturne
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2700, European and American Art, 19th century, Impressionism and the Late Nineteenth Century
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
47 x 62.2 cm (18 1/2 x 24 1/2 in.)
framed: 72.7 x 88.3 x 6.4 cm (28 5/8 x 34 3/4 x 2 1/2 in.)
Sold by the artist to C.A. Howell, London, February 22, 1878; his sale to Alfred Chapman, Esq., 1878; his sale back to Whistler, after 1894 [through Goupil Galleries?]; his sale to John James Cowan, December 1898; Edwin Amsinck; to his wife, Antoinie Amsinck; her bequest to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1921; its sale to Galerie Paffrath, Dusseldorf, May 17, 1926; Barbizon House, London; Knoedler & Co., New York; Scott and Fowles, New York; their sale to Grenville Lindall Winthrop, March 1933; his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

II Summer Exhibition, exh. cat., Grosvenor Gallery (London, England, 1878), no. 57

Exhibition of Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces: Small Collection Kindly Lent by Their Owners, exh. cat., Goupil Gallery (London, England, 1892), no. 16

Thomas R. Way, The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation, George Bell and Sons, Ltd. (London, England, 1903), pp. 20, 60-61

Theodore Duret, Histoire de J. McN. Whistler et de son Oeuvre., Henri Floury (Paris, France, 1904), repr. opposite p. 82

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY, 1904), pp. 126, 307-308

[Unidentified article], Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1905), ser. 3, vol. 34, p. 239., p. 239, reproduced

Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, J. B. Lippincott/W. Heinemann (Philadelphia, PA and London, England, 1908), v. I, pp. 166-167

Bernhard Sickert, Whistler, Duckworth & Co. (London, England, 1908), pp. 142, 145, 159

Michael Bryan, Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, George Bell and Sons, Ltd. (London, England, 1909-1910), v. 5, p. 363

Katalog der Neuren Meister, exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg, Germany, 1922), no. 2487, p. 243

James Laver, Whistler, Faber & Faber (London) (London, England, 1930), p. 182

Art in New England, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1939), p. 91

Denys Sutton, James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels and Watercolors, Phaidon Press (London, England, 1966), p. 192, reproduced plate 80

Donald Holden, Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY, 1969), p. 46, reproduced p. 47

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 93, ill.

Stanley Weintraub, Whistler: A Biography, Weybright and Talley (New York, NY, 1974), pp. 140-141

Denys Sutton, "The Victorian Scene", Apollo (November 1978), vol. CVII, reproduced in b/w p. 291, text pp. 290-291

Andrew McLaren Young and Margaret F. MacDonald, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1980), vol. I p. 100, no. 174, reproduced b/w vol. II, pl. 94

Pierre Cabanne, Whistler, Crown Publishers Inc. (New York, NY, 1985), p. 257, ill

Pierre Cabanne, Whistler, Marshall Cavendish Ltd. (London, England, 1985), p.257, ill.

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), p. 185, cat. 210, ill.

Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler: A Reexamination, ed. Ruth E. Fine, National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C., 1987), mentioned p. 22

Robin Spencer, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc. (New York, NY, 1989), reproduced in color pl. 49, p. 162

Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), p. 10, cat. 21

Isabelle Enaud Lechien, James Whistler: Le paintre et le polémiste, ACR PocheCouleur (Paris, France, 1995), pp. 84 - 86, reproduced in color, p. 85

Christopher Newall, The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibitions: Change and Continuity in the Victorian Art World, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1995), p. 135

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), pp. 471-72, cat. 215, ill.

Linda Merrill, After Whistler: The Artist and His Influence on American Painting, exh. cat., SDZ (Belgium, 2003), page 66, repr. in color

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), pp. 487-88, cat. 215, ill.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 412-13, cat. no. 441, reproduced in color, p. 413

William Chapman Sharpe, New York Nocturne: The City After Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography, 1850-1950, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 2008), pp. 95-96, fig. 2.7

Stacey B. Epstein, Alfred Maurer: At the Vanguard of Modernism, exh. cat., Yale University Press (U.S.), Addison Gallery of American Art, and Phillips Academy (New Haven, 2015), pp. 49 + 54, repr. p. 54

Exhibition History

Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 05/01/1878 - 08/05/1878

Internationale Kunst-Austellung, Unknown venue, Munich, Munich, 07/01/1888 - 12/31/1888

Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 01/01/1892 - 12/31/1892

8th Exhibition, Société des Artistes Indépendants, Société des Artistes Indépendants, Paris, 03/19/1892 - 04/27/1892

Unidentified Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1901, [Unknown venue, Edinburgh], Edinburgh, 01/01/1901 - 12/31/1901

Unidentified Exhibition, London Academy of Art, 1930, London Academy of Art, London, 01/01/1930 - 12/31/1930

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994

The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2700 Impressionism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/13/2016 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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