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This is one of the nocturnes that Whistler painted of Cremorne Gardens, at the west end of Chelsea beside the river Thames. The gardens were popular as a place of amusement, offering concerts, dancing and, as in this painting, a nightly display of fireworks. Cremorne was closed in 1877 due to repeated complaints from the neighbourhood about the noise and rowdiness. Whistler’s nocturnes provide a sense of the tranquillity of the Thames at night, and are far removed from the teeming waterfront of the day.

February 2010