Titled by Whistler in 1866 as Courbet – on sea shore, the painting echoes the composition of Courbet’s Les bords de la mer à Palavas (1854). Yet, while it refers to that picture and represents the figure of Courbet within its composition, Harmony in Blue and Silver is a turning point in the emergence of what would come to be Whistler’s mature painting mode, a radical reduction of painting to thin veils of color brushed across canvas. Whistler’s growing commitment to the purely formal elements of painting is apparent in the way in which the calm expanses of sand, sea, and sky approach the abstraction of pure bands of color; yet at the same time, thin washes of a pale lavender color suggest shifting lights and depths in the water and the air.
Source: Aileen Tsui, "Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 198-199