James McNeill Whistler painted the present work while visiting the small fishing village of St. Ives in Cornwall, England from January to March of 1884. Daniel E. Sutherland writes of Whistler's time in St. Ives: "His subjects were mostly 'shops and seas and skies,' as he put it, but they also included fishing boats, cottages, cliffs, and headlands. Both format and subject may have been influenced by his recent experiments with a camera obscura. Fascinated by the way its reverse telescoping reduced the size of a scene and flattened perceptions of depth, Whistler had found an entirely new way of viewing nature...It simplified color schemes, too, by limiting the range of perceptible tones to five. [Walter Richard] Sickert and [Mortimer Luddington] Menpes marveled at the results, with Sickert later insisting that the St. Ives paintings represented the best of Whistler's art." (Whistler: A Life for Art's Sake, New Haven, Connecticut, 2014, p. 198)
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The panel is flat and stable. Under ultraviolet light, a few small spots of inpainting in the figures on the beach and in the rocks at lower left, and scattered dots and dashes of inpainting in the sky and sea, some of which are visible in natural light.
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