James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Coast of Brittany (Alone with the Tide)

Spotlight Exhibition
Begins August 4, 2022

In the autumn of 1861 James McNeill Whistler spent three months on the coast of Brittany in northern France to recover from a dangerous bout of rheumatic fever. While there he painted his first ever seascape and titled it Alone with the Tide. In 1925 it was purchased by the Wadsworth Atheneum along with two of the artist’s letters, one from 1862 describing the exhibition of the painting in London, and one from 1899 looking back on the painting after nearly forty years. Alone with the Tide and these letters will be brought together in this Spotlight exhibition to tell the story of Whistler’s early masterpiece.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Coast of Brittany (Alone with the Tide), detail

Image: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Coast of Brittany (Alone with the Tide) (detail), 1861. Oil on canvas. In memory of William Arnold Healy, given by his daughter, Susie Healy Camp

Whistler in Connecticut

Add these spots to your itinerary to track down more works of art by Whistler and sites connected to the artist right here in Connecticut:

Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington

Hill-Stead’s owner Alfred Pope collected Whistler’s work, befriended the artist in London in 1894, and corresponded with him regularly as he built an art collection. See these four paintings and select etchings on display:

  • Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz, 1862.This is Whistler’s second major seascape after The Coast of Brittany
  • The Selsey Shore, ca. 1878–1881.
  • Symphony in Violet and Blue, 1893.
  • Carmen Rossi, ca.1895.

New Britain Museum of American Art

  • The Beach at Selsey Hill, ca.1881. Oil on canvas. Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1949.20.


After Whistler’s father died in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1849, his mother returned the family to CT where they settled in Pomfret. The exact location of the family house has not been identified.


Whistler lived in the Captain Amos Palmer House (private residence) on Main Street as a child from 1837–40. His father, George Washington Whistler, and three younger brothers, Kirk, Charles, and John are buried in town at the Evergreen Cemetery.

Weir Farm National Historical Park, Wilton

The house and studio of American Impressionist painter Julian Alden Weir (1852–1919) whose father, Robert, was Whistler’s professor of drawing at the US Military Academy at West Point. J. Alden and Whistler became acquainted on visits to London.

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

An extensive collection of Whistler prints is available by appointment in the James E. Duffy Study Room.

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven

  • Nocturne in Blue and Silver, 1872–88. Oil on canvas. Paul Mellon Fund, B1994.19.

Prints and drawings by Whistler are available by appointment in the Study Room.