‘Nocturne in Black and Gold - The Falling Rocket’ painted in 1875 by James McNeill Whistler. The painting was inspired by the extravagant fireworks displays which were regularly staged at Cremorne Pleasure Gardens. The work is best known as the cause of the lawsuit between Whistler and the critic John Ruskin who said that in creating the piece the artist was “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face”.

James McNeill Whistler (1843-1903)

James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Gray: Portrait of the Painter, c.1872, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts. Source

Realist painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born in Massachusetts, but he primarily worked in London and Paris throughout his career. He was one of the key artists associated with the development of Tonalism, a style of landscape painting that involved blending hues to create a powerful, intense atmosphere. The titles of Whistler’s works were inspired by musical language; words such as ‘symphony’, ‘arrangement’, ‘harmony’ and ‘nocturne’ are frequently used to introduce compositions.

Though his most famous piece is Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother, Whistler should probably be more known for suing the art critic John Ruskin over criticism made towards his Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Falling Rocket, a highly controversial painting at the time of its execution. Though the artist triumphed at court, the trial left Whistler bankrupt, and he never really recovered.

Art for Art’s Sake

By Connor O’Brien

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, an Anglo-American painter and prominent aesthete, promoted an ideology of “art for art’s sake,” arguing that art served no broader ethical or social purpose greater than its effects on the individual artist. His painting Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, or better known as Whistler’s Mother, is one of the most recognizable and influential portraits by an American artist, yet not everyone was a fan of his work. When he debuted Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket in 1877, his philosophy of apathy toward critical taste was put to the test.

The piece, displayed above, is decidedly more abstract than was in style at the time. Although known as a champion of J.M.W. Turner, another artist who incorporated more impressionistic elements into his works despite their conservative audience, renowned critic John Ruskin accused Whistler of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” due to the visible painterly brushstrokes. The insulted painter, whose finances were ailing at the time, then took Ruskin to court, where Ruskin famously lost the suit. The victory for Whistler, however, was bittersweet, as he was awarded only one penny-farthing (as opposed to the £1,000 he originally requested) and was forced to split the legal costs with Mr. Ruskin. The fees imposed on the artist helped lead to his bankruptcy two years later. In yet another spectacular display characteristic of the iconic painter, he destroyed his paintings so that creditors would not be able to repossess them.

During the libel hearings, it was revealed that it took two days to paint Nocturne. When asked if 200 guineas was really what he was asking for after two days’ work, Whistler responded, “No, I ask it for the knowledge which I have gained in the work of a lifetime.” Although Ruskin may not have liked it at the time, certainly is the world better off for Whistler’s lifetime of work.

Connor O’Brien is an intern for art reference at Oxford University Press.




James Ruskin - Detached

Label: Tresor

Released: 2000


James Ruskin - Into A Circle [Jealous God 002]


James Ruskin - Prevention Beyond Cause [Blueprint]


James Ruskin - Cast Down


The Fear Ratio - Dirty Paws


The Fear Ratio - Mas

Label: Blueprint

Released: November 2011

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3 deck techno mix by chris wren.

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Shifted - Avian 1 B1
Sigha - HF029 B1
Developer - Time Framer
Shifted - Avian 1 B2
Chevel - Tren
Donor - Confine
Furesshu - Echologist Dub
Developer - Edificio
Mike Dehnert - Montage
Truncate - Concentrate
Marcelus - Friction
Shifted - Drained
Sigha - The Politics of Dying
Pfirter - Universe
Plankton MADA - Il Brutto (Truncate dub mix)
Marcel Dettmann - Lattice
James Ruskin & Mark Broom - The Future That Was
Ben Klock - Wolf
Darko Esser - Onmacht
Developer - Hypnotica Erotica
Donor - Portal
N/A - Variance 3 (Marcel Dettmann)
Marcelus - Shape
Moerbeck & Subjected - 006.MK
Developer - Revisiter
Tommy Four Seven - Track 5
Xhin - Incidental
Shifted - Resurface
Traversable Wormhole - Traversing the Asteroid Belt (Monoloc)
Truncate - Pad Mode
Shifted - Avian 1 A1
Pfirter - Materia

Equipment used: 3 x 1210s; DJM700; stack of 12s + mixvibes cross digital vinyl control

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James Ruskin- Wisdom of Youth



Rossetti’s Wombat Seated in his Master’s Lap

William Bell Scott


From “Rossetti’s Wombat: A Pre-Raphaelite Obsession in Victorian England”

“In the 1860s, Rossetti often took his friends to visit the wombats at the zoo, sometimes for hours on end. On one occasion Rossetti wrote to Ford Madox Brown: ‘Dear Brown: Lizzie and I propose to meet Georgie and Ned [the Burne-Jones] at 2 pm tomorrow at the Zoological Gardens—place of meeting, the Wombat’s Lair.’”

“During its short life, the first of Rossetti’s two pet wombats secured a remarkable place in the mythology of his circle of friends. Rossetti gleefully reported to William Bell Scott on 28 September 1869 that the wombat had effectively interrupted a long and dreary monologue from John Ruskin by patiently burrowing between the eminent critic’s jacket and waistcoat. This must have been a marvellous thing to watch happen.”

“Much later, James McNeill Whistler invented a silly story about how the wombat had perished after eating an entire box of cigars. Ford Madox Brown thought that Rossetti’s habit of bringing the wombat to dinner and letting it sleep in the large épergne or centrepiece on the dining room table inspired the dormouse in the tea-pot incident at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is also impossible because Lewis Carroll wrote that chapter in 1863, and the novel with its famous illustrations by John Tenniel was published two years later in 1865. As my colleague David Marshall has also pointed out, either Rossetti’s épergne was enormous, or the wombat was dramatically small. As well, there were stories circulating about the wombat’s diet of ladies’ carelessly discarded straw hats, and so on.”


James Ruskin - Graphic

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James Ruskin - The Nature Of Our Hurting (Original Mix) [Jealous God]