The Title Page for 'Douze Eaux Fortes d'apr├Ęs Nature'

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 22
Date: 1858
Medium: etching
Size: 112 x 147 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: 'Douze / Eaux Fortes / d'apres Nature - / par James. Whistler. / Imp. Delatre. Rue St. Jacques. 171. Paris. Nov. 1858 -' and 'Imp. Delatre. Rue St. Jacques. 171. Paris. Nov. 1858 -' at top; 'A / Mon viel Ami Seymour Haden.' at bottom.
Set/Publication: 'French Set', 1858
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 56
Catalogues: K.25; M.25; T.1; W.20
Impressions taken from this plate  (56)


artist, children, man, portrait, sketching.


This etching is the title page for Douze Eaux Fortes d'apres Nature (the 'French Set'), and several titles include this information:

'Douze Eaux Fortes d'après Nature' (1858, Whistler). 2
'The Title' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 3
'The Title to the French Set' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Portrait (on blue cover)' (1887, Whistler). 5
'Title Page' (1889, Whistler). 6
'Delannoy, Sketching' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 7

The Title Page for 'Douze Eaux Fortes d'après Nature' incorporates Whistler's 'Title Page' and the text on the copper plate.

In one sense Mansfield was correct in his title because the artist in the scene is based on Whistler's drawings of Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870), but this is clearly not the title by which Whistler knew it.

2: Etched on copper plate.

3: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 1).

4: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 20).

5: Whistler to W. C. Angus, 9 May 1887, GUW #13098.

6: List, 18 July 1889, GUW #13235.

7: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 25).


A crowd of children surrounds an artist at work. The artist is sitting low down, sketching; he wears loose trousers and a velvet collared jacket. He has bushy, collar-length hair, and his face is shadowed by a broad-brimmed, low-crowned straw hat with a ribbon. To the left are five children, including two boys with caps; to the right are five smaller children, and in the far right foreground is a small, plump, child, the only one looking out at the viewer.


Comparative image
r.: Succès d'Erneste à Cologne; v.: Tracing of recto [m0271].
The etching is based on a drawing by Whistler, Succès d'Erneste à Cologne, reproduced above, which shows Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870). Another sketch of Delannoy at work (An artist sketching [m0270]) was the basis for a related title page, An Artist Sketching [23].
Mansfield insisted by his title that the etching in its final form represented Delannoy, 'Wearing gaiters and loose trousers and Whistler's broad-brimmed hat, he sits, making a sketch, surrounded by groups of peering children.' 8 Charles L. Drouet (1836-1908) - who had known both artists at that time - told the Pennells that Whistler and Delannoy wore similar linen suits for their trip 'and so Ernest was able to pose for the portrait, all but the face, in the title to The French Set of etchings'. 9 However, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) commented that the artist in the etching 'resembles Whistler.' 10

8: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 25).

9: Pennell 1921C, pp. 49, 171.

10: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 25).


The drawing on which the etching is based, r.: Succès d'Erneste à Cologne; v.: Tracing of recto [m0271], was made in Cologne (Köln), an ancient, large and important city on the banks of the Rhine. The copper plate may have been developed there or on Whistler's return to Paris.


The drawing, Succès d'Erneste à Cologne, was used to trace the design onto the copper plate 11 ; the plate itself was dedicated to Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), and the drawing was acquired by him.

11: MacDonald 1995 (cat. nos. 270-271).

The catalogue raisonné of Whistler's drawings discusses the relationship between the drawing (which came from a small sketchbook) and the etching:
'The shapes of the figures of the children admiringly surrounding Erneste Delannoy are distinctive. Whistler used two or three outlines for each shape. There is neat vertical shading in the centre, and horizontal lines make masks for the children at left. The drawing is on fine soft paper, through which the main lines of the design were neatly traced with a fine point for the etching which was to become the title to the 'French Set'. On the plate, Whistler reworked the head to look more like himself. Although the drawing was done during the tour of the Rhineland, it could have been traced and transferred to the etching plate when Whistler returned to Paris in October 1858. It is the only drawing which was definitely transferred by this method. ' 12

12: MacDonald 1995 (cat. no. 271).

Thus the composition as seen in the drawing was reversed in the etching as printed. In addition, it is recorded that a pencil drawing, 'An Artist sketching', said to be the design for the title to the 'French Set' was sold at Sotheby's on 4 May 1949 (lot 12) and bought by 'M. Stewart' for £28.0.0, but it has not been traced.