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1. Imagine walking through the entryway in The Lime-Burner to the river in the background. What would you pass as you walked back to the distant river?
standing man wearing cap and vest,
wood and brick walls
Ask students to describe the standing man, The Lime-Burner . Note his 19th-Century work clothes. He wears a workman’s cap and has smudges on his face and hand. Describe his pose. Does he seem tired? Maybe he is taking a break from his work. Lime burning was hard, hot labor. Dangerous gases were emitted as shells or limestone were burned to a powered lime used in construction mortar.
Describe the surface of the path you would walk on.
It seems smooth, perhaps hard packed dirt with wagon ruts and pebbles or litter along the edges.
What would you see if you looked up?
Dark wooden rafters are in the foreground. Because light shines on the lime burner, this may be a courtyard open to the sky. Behind the standing man is a wooden beam and a variety of wooden ceilings beyond this.
(A) "The Lime-Burner," 1859, Etching on paper, Rosenwald Collection, Courtesy National Gallery of Art
(B) "The Doorway," 1879/1880, Etching and drypoint on paper, Rosenwald Collection, Courtesy National Gallery of Art
2. Write a word or phrase describing the building in (A).
Terms such as ramshackle, industrial, disorderly, junky, dirty, multilevel
3. Write a word or phrase describing the building in (B).
Terms such as arches, once grand Venetian house on canal, tiles, ornate, dark interior Steps suggest that it is need of repair.
4. In which print is the viewer closer to the entry?
Notice that water comes to the lower steps of The Doorway in (B).
This house is on a canal in Venice.
5. In which print is the main person drawn in most detail?
6. Compare the vertical sides of each print.
Which are darker?
Drawn in most detail?
7. What was Whistler most interested in showing in (A)?
Standing man and interior of the building, real ordinary life scene
8. What was Whistler most interested in showing in (B)?
Exterior of the building, an exotic (to London) scene in a beautiful piece of art. However, the interior is centered with a dark suggestion of a courtyard and people.
Call attention to the patterns in (B). Challenge students to identify at least 3 different patterns. There are more in addition to the squares over the central entry, the diamond shapes on each side, and the floral borders at the base of the building.
Ask students to compare the thickness of most of the lines in The Lime-Burner to those in The Dooway. The lines in The Doorway are much finer.
Analysis of The Lime-Burner
Ask: How has Whistler indicated depth in The Lime-Burner ?
Objects overlap. Distant objects are smaller, less distinct, and higher in the picture plane.
Ask: How does Whistler lead our gaze into and through this composition?
We follow the path from the lower edge of the etching back to the distant river. Wagon ruts in the path help direct the eye movement to the back.
Ask: What part of The Line-Burner seems most important? How has Whistler emphasized this part?
The Lime-Burner and the distant scene behind him create a focal point near the center of the composition. The path with rut lines leads to it. The distant man sitting in shade contrasts with the white wall and very detailed standing man.
Point out the different types of lines Whistler made as he drew The Lime-Burner . Ask students to find:
- areas of closely spaced parallel lines that gradually come close together creating darker values. This technique is called hatching.
- areas of cross-hatching where values become even darker.
- different angles of the lines in roof area to the upper left of the standing man.
- various textures in this etching. Note the textures of the bricks, wood beams, sieve, and light plaster wall behind man.
Whister’s signature and date, 1859, is in the lower right corner of The Lime-Burner . When Whistler created this in London, he was 25 years old, early in his career. At this point he was a Realist, accurately drawing the scenes surrounding him. By 1880 when he created The Doorway, he had embraced the idea of “art for art’s sake.”
Ask: Who might buy The Lime-Burner? The Doorway? What would the buyer appreciate about these prints?
There was a growing middle class in London who could afford to buy art. Prints were usually more affordable than paintings. Patrons might purchase these prints because they thought they were beautiful, or they appreciated Whistler’s drawing and compositional skill. Or they might enjoy owning a scene that was familiar to them as in The Lime-Burner . They, like Whistler, might realize that London was changing and soon would look differently. Travelers who had visited Venice might enjoy The Doorway as a momento of their vacation.
In this activity students draw an entryway and what is seen inside or through it.
Depending on the drawing expertise of your students, they may begin by experimenting with various line types before attempting a larger sketch. Point out different kinds of lines in Whistler’s etchings. Using markers, pen and ink, or pencils students may use hatching, a series of short closely spaced parallel lines to create values ranging from light to dark. They may add cross-hatching (a series of lines drawn across the hatch marks.) Suggest that students draw a simple object with quick, almost scribbly lines like Whistler sometimes drew.
Assign students to draw a familiar entry such as the main door to the school or gym, a gate to a park, their bedroom door or an opening in a building or fence. As they compose and plan their drawing, they should consider what will be the most important part of their picture and how they will emphasize it. Will they center this entry on their page? Will they use value contrasts to direct attention to it? Maybe they will draw lines leading towards it. Tell students to use hatching and cross-hatching to create a range of values in their drawing. They should look at the entry as they sketch with pencil or markers.
What’s inside? Students might draw the actual view inside the entry, or they might use their imaginations to draw what they wish were there. Alternatively they might paste a photograph or montage of photographs inside the door.