Whistler’s Friend

James McNeill Whistler, “Walter Sickert,” 1895, Metropolitan Museum.

Under great painting is confident draftsmanship. This drawing by Whistler, made in 1895 but printed in 1903, is done almost entirely by hatching — making lines of varying thickness to create shadows. In skilled drawings like this one the image seems to haunt the paper, coming to life in the negative space. The technique of drawing is quick, economical, and evocative. You can’t fake it. Every move counts. Whistler is known for paintings like his famous “Mother.” But his command of simplicity, as in this sketch of fellow artist Walter Sickert, is what gives his paintings life.