Like Breath On Glass: Whistler, Inness, And The Art Of Painting Softly


Marc Simpson
With essays by Wanda M. Corn, Cody Hartley, Michael J. Lewis, Leo G. Mazow, and Joyce Hill Stoner

$65.00 Hardcover
$45.00 Softcover

Winner of the 2009 William Fischelis Book Award, The Victorian Society in America

“Paint should not be applied thick,” James McNeill Whistler once famously stated. “It should be like breath on the surface of a pane of glass.” Through an innovative manner of handling paint, a group of American artists around 1900 created deceptively simple canvases that convey images of shimmering transience, visions suggested rather than delineated. Focusing on this singular aesthetic characteristic—softness—Like Breath on Glass explores this painterly phenomenon through works by fifteen important artists, including Whistler, George Inness, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, John Henry Twachtman, and Eduard Steichen.

Leading scholars in American art consider a wide variety of topics: the very different motives—technical, social, religious, and scientific—that prompted these artists in their experimentation; their techniques for creating the appearance of effortlessness; period notions of “the vague” through art and writing; and the revival of “painting softly” in the 1950s and 1960s. This beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated catalogue highlights a surprisingly understudied yet important aspect of American cultural and painterly achievement.

280 pages, 10 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches
105 color and 5 black-and-white illustrations
Published by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven and London

ISBN 978-0-300-13406-3 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-931102-76-9 (softcover)