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Colour - music : musical modelling in James McNeill Whistler's art

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Teniswood-Harvey, AMC (2006) Colour - music : musical modelling in James McNeill Whistler's art. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This study investigates the influence of Western music on Whistler's artistic
theory and practice. Drawing upon primary sources, it traces Whistler's lifelong
exposure to, and engagement with, music making, and considers the ways in which
he translated his musical experiences into pictorial subject matter. Whistler's use of
musical nomenclature and analogy are then examined, within the context of both his
personal musical experience and knowledge, and the wider nineteenth-century
interest in the interrelations between the visual arts and music. The notions of
musical autonomy, art-for-art's sake and artistic correspondence; the influence of
music on colour theory; and the discourse of enthusiasm surrounding Beethovenism
and Wagnerism are deemed influential.
The dissertation argues that music informed Whistler's theory and practice in
a highly significant manner. The study proposes that the model of pure or absolute
music - its autonomy and operations - provided Whistler with a framework to
explore, justify and communicate his interest in freestanding pictorial technique. In
addition to providing a paradigm for the primacy of formal interest over subject
matter, the actual language and experience of music informed Whistler's pictorial
practice. Whistler's approach to subject matter, colour and composition were all
influenced by his musical interest.
Building upon the ideas of the American scholar Kermit S. Champa, the study
employs and develops an interpretive framework to analyse and discuss Whistler's
use of 'musical modelling'. This method of enquiry isolates the musical operations
evident in Whistler's art - pulse, rhythm, movement, pace, sequential structure,
voicing, counterpoint, attack and decay, harmony, and tonality. Two detailed case
studies demonstrate the validity of the musical model in interpreting Whistler's work.
The first proposes a strong link between Franz Schubert's Moments musicaux, Op.
94, and Whistler's Six Projects; while the second considers the correspondences
between Whistler's Nocturnes and their musical counterpart. Such analyses offer
fresh readings of familiar yet enigmatic images.
This dissertation discusses artworks from all the two-dimensional, pictorial
media in which Whistler worked. The visual analysis focuses upon images with
musical titles and/or subject matter. However, the study provides the groundwork for
investigating the ways in which Whistler explored musical modelling in other works.
Therefore, the interpretive model demonstrated in this dissertation has widespread
application within the field of Whistler scholarship. Additionally, as an
interdisciplinary study this project also contributes to the fields of art history,
musicology, and Victorian studies, by documenting Whistler's eclectic patronage of
musical events and his friendships with significant figures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Whistler, James McNeill, 1834-1903, Art, Absolute music
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2006 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Available for library use only and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references. Ch. 1. Ut Pictura Musica -- Ch. 2. Whistler's musical experiences -- Ch. 3. Imaging music -- Ch. 4. Towards a theory of colour-music -- Ch. 5. Musical nomenclature -- Ch. 6. Moments musicaux: The six projects -- Ch. 7. Nocturnes

Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2015 23:33
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2016 23:24
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