James McNeill Whistler: The Original Printmaker
James McNeill Whistler was one of the first and most illustrious artists to show in our gallery’s history. The Fine Art Society was the scene of one of his greatest triumphs, the exhibition he called Arrangement in White and Yellow held in 1883. It was a revolutionary show conceived by the artist at a time when the One-Man Show was still a novelty. It is fitting then that his work be the focus of our very first online viewing room to be hosted on our new website.
As an artist, Whistler excelled in many mediums, but it was as an etcher and lithographer that he truly made his influence felt. His career as an original printmaker was extensive, his etchings alone number almost 500. His copper plate illustrations span a wide range of subjects and sitters, from his well-known topographical compositions of London, Venice and Amsterdam, to his intimate portraits of friends and lovers. Whistler had an eye for the familiar, but his real interests lay in the overlooked quotidian activities of street life, often working en plein air, sketching working people, merchants in their shops, and dockers along the water front.
Our viewing room of Whistler prints highlights some of the major aspects of the artists oeuvre featuring a stunning impression of Venus, 1859 - a study of his mistress, Eloise (known as ‘Fumette’); a very rare impression of Penny Passengers, Limehouse, 1860; and two views of Venice, The Little Lagoon, 1879–80 and Riva, No.2, 1879–80, which were both first exhibited at the gallery in 1880 and 1886, respectively, and formed part of Whistler’s First and Second Venice Sets, which were commissioned by The Fine Art Society.
James McNeill WhistlerGirl with Bowl , 1895Lithograph, signed in pencil with a butterfly, lower left, and annotated' No 10', verso, printed in black ink on laid paper, watermark Arms of Bollo Reale Toscano with Fleur de Lys countermark, from the edition of 12 impressions printed by Thomas Way; there was also an edition of 600 printed by Lemercier in Paris and published in L’Ymagier in October 1895 and a posthumous edition of 45 printed by Frederick Goulding in March 19045 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches (13.6 x 6.7 cm);
Sheet 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches (21 x 14.5 cm)
James McNeill WhistlerVenus, 1859etching and drypoint6 x 9 inchesan impression in the second (final) state; no published edition
James McNeill WhistlerPenny Passengers, Limehouse, 1860signed in pencil with the butterfly and inscribed 'imp'etching and drypoint3 1/4 x 8 1/8 inchesan impression in the second (final) state, one of only six recorded
James McNeill WhistlerRiva, No. 2, 1879-1880Etching and drypoint, signed in pencil with a butterfly and inscribed 'imp', printed in dark brown ink on laid paper, trimmed at the platemark, leaving a signature tab: in the first state (of two) from the edition of 42 published in 'A Set of Twenty-Six Etchings by James A. McN. Whistler', published by Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, 18868 x 11 7/8 in
20.3 x 30.2 cm
James McNeill WhistlerThe Little Lagoon, 1879-1880signed in pencil with a butterfly and inscribed 'imp'etching and drypoint9 x 6 inchesan impression in the fourth (final) state; edition of 100
James McNeill WhistlerThe Embroidered Curtain, 1889signed in pencil with a butterfly and inscribed 'imp'etching9 1/2 x 6 1/4 inchesa proof in the seventh state of ten