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Whistler's Titles

Whistler's title is used wherever that can be established. In each case the Catalogue Raisonné explains the sources of the title.
  • 1. Whistler's title is given wherever possible.
  • 2. Etchings that were published in sets with Whistler's authorisation are given the published title.
  • 3. Where the titles were originally given in French as for instance forLa Marchande de Moutarde [20], this title has been retained, with the translation given.
  • 4. The first exhibited title, or title otherwise published during Whistler's lifetime is given.
  • 5. Whistler's letters, particularly the lists made by himself or his wife, and sale invoices and receipts, provide titles, sometimes with minor variations.
  • 6. Titles written by Whistler on the etchings or elsewhere are compared to those noted above. All these variations are noted by the Whistler Etching Project.


Whistler himself was not consistent in his use of titles. For instance, some Venetian prints had Venice in the title (Long Venice [211]) and some did not (Nocturne: Furnace [208]). Some portraits have the name of the model (Maud, Standing [169]), and some do not (The Boy (Charlie Hanson) [145]). Sometimes he spelt names wrongly (Ponte Piovan [220]) or mistook one etching for another. Some titles have a generic grouping, such as 'Nocturne' (Nocturne [222]) but usually in combination with a descriptive title (Nocturne Shipping [206]). Some include the action rather than the person (Reading a Book [112]).

Occasionally an etching has become known by two titles, and there may be a real conflict between two equally viable titles. Rotherhithe [70], for instance, is a problem, having been published and exhibited under radically different titles. The seven etchings of Battersea Reach and Bridge bear similar titles and are sometimes confused one with another.

Early Catalogues

When a title has not necessarily been authorised by the artist, other early published titles are considered.

The published catalogues of Whistler's work by Thomas, Wedmore, Kennedy and Mansfield provide reliable titles in many cases, and when they do not conflict with other information, and are not misleading, these continue to be used. Kennedy's titles in particular are given precedence, partly because he knew Whistler and because his catalogue has been widely accepted. 1 However, Thomas's titles must be considered, since he knew Whistler's early work, up to 1874.

Furthermore Whistler and his wife were aware of Wedmore's catalogue. Indeed Beatrice Whistler used that catalogue when listing Whistler's copper plates and stock of prints. Thus it could be said that if Whistler did not actively object to a title, then Wedmore's titles should also been considered viable.

Mansfield based his titles for early prints on those written by Whistler in the collection of S.P. Avery (now in New York Public Library). This did at times provide a title that is indisputable. However, sometimes Whistler's inscription was sometimes little more than a note that an etching was made in London or Paris, and did not constitute a title.

1: Thomas, Ralph, A Catalogue of the Etchings and Drypoints of James Abbott MacNeil Whistler, London, 1874; Wedmore, Sir Frederick, Whistler's Etchings: a Study and a Catalogue, London, 1886; Wedmore, Sir Frederick, Whistler's Etchings: a Study and a Catalogue, 2nd ed., revised, London, 1899; Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909; Kennedy, Edward G., Catalogue of Etchings by J. McN. Whistler, Compiled by an Amateur. Supplementary to that Compiled by F. Wedmore, New York, 1902; Kennedy, Edward G., The Etched Work of Whistler, New York, 1910.

Impression: K0070102
Portrait of Whistler [5]

New Titles

When the authorities mentioned above provide a misleading or inadequate title, or where two etchings of similar title cause confusion, then a simple descriptive method is adopted by the project team. For instance, it was considered that 'Early Portrait of Whistler', a title given by Kennedy to the self-porttait reproduced above, was not an acceptable title, and it is replaced with Portrait of Whistler [5]. It was thought that Kennedy's titles 'Two Slight sketches' and Two sketches' were inadequate and these have been clarified, to become Two studies of women [271] and Sketches of a Girl and a Woman [153]. Our catalogue distinguishes such etchings with more accurate, descriptive titles.