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James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket, 1875
oil on panel
This work, which is a depiction of a fireworks display in London’s Cremorne Gardens, is probably Whistler’s most infamous painting. It was the central issue of a libel suit that involved the art critic John Ruskin and the artist. Ruskin had publicly slandered the work by making the statement, “I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Whistler won the libel suit; however, he was awarded only the token damages of one farthing.
~Detroit Institute of Arts