Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1875) is the final piece in Whistler's series of nocturnes, and one of only six to depict London's Cremorne Gardens. In this painting, Whistler portrays a fireworks display in the night sky, conveying a sense of excitement and celebration. Rather than offering a clear image, the artist's sweeping brushstrokes of dark blues and greens, interrupted by small bursts of bright color, capture the effects of fireworks over the river, exemplifying the Aesthetic principle of "art for art's sake." Whistler described the painting as conveying a "dreamy, pensive mood" rather than a narrative.
Despite its significance as an early example of abstraction, The Falling Rocket was not initially well received. Critics questioned the value of the seemingly convoluted subject matter and criticized what they perceived as Whistler's reckless and careless painting technique. The negative review by John Ruskin prompted Whistler to sue for libel, submitting this painting, along with other nocturnes, as evidence. Ruskin's condemnation of Whistler's work as representative of "the modern school" proved accurate, as Whistler's technique of flicking paint at the canvas to create the fireworks influenced later modern artists, most notably Jackson Pollock.