Nocturne Scenes. Fireworks. Remembering Charles.

Nocturne Scenes. Fireworks. Remembering Charles.


The scene in this contemporary nocturne photograph is the train station in the town of Náměšť nad Oslavou where Charles and his family lived in Czechoslovakia during World War II.

Charles loved these night scenes as he also loved the “dreamy pensive mood” of nocturne paintings (and I do, too). On our frequent visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts we enjoyed viewing the last of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s (1834-1903) nocturnes, “Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1875).”

This nearly abstract painting presents an explosion of fireworks in the foggy night sky (in Cremorne Gardens) over London’s River Thames. It captures a sense of excitement and celebration and it makes me think of Charles and I watching Detroit’s “Fourth of July Fireworks” from our apartment balcony overlooking the Detroit River. We were so close we felt like we could reach out and touch the blazing bursts of color. Years later when we moved to the Cass Corridor,  we sometimes watched the fireworks from our roof. It just wasn’t the same.

Whistler was derided by the art critic John Ruskin for the reckless “bursts of color” in his painting. Ruskin accused him of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” so Whistler sued him for libel and won! He received only a farthing in damages and after all the court costs, he had to declare bankruptcy. Whistler’s techniques of flicking paint at the canvas for the fireworks was used later by modern artists like Jackson Pollock.

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