Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 48
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 128 x 204 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right
Inscribed: '1859' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 82
Catalogues: K.40; M.39; T.39; W.37
Impressions taken from this plate  (82)


The etching was published as 'Limehouse' with A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on The Thames and other Subjects (the 'Thames Set') by Messrs Ellis and Green in 1871.


Limehouse was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1861, when F. G. Stephens commented, 'An original etching by the same and felicitous hand, ... should not be overlooked in the Octagon room; where also should be noticed his two remarkable etchings of shipping scenes on the banks of the Thames at London.' 18

Several etchings from the 'Thames Set' were exhibited at Martinet's gallery in Paris in 1862 and praised by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). This etching may have been what inspired Baudelaire in his praise of Whistler's choice and treatment of subject matter:

18: 'ART AND ARTISTS, Exhibition at the Royal Academy', The Critic: Journal of British and Foreign Literature and Arts , 11 May 1861, p. 606; London RA 1861 (cat. no. 974).

'merveilleux fouillis d'agrès, de vergues, de cordages; chaos de brumes, de fourneaux, et de fumées tire-bouchonnées; poésie profonde et compliquée d'une vaste capitale.'
[Translated:] 'A marvellous tangle of rigging, yardarms and rope; a chaos of fog, furnaces and gushing smoke; the profound and complicated poetry of a vast capital.' 19

19: C. Baudelaire, 'Peintres et Aqua-fortistes', Le Boulevard, [14th September 1862], and in Revue Anecdotique, 2 April 1862; C. Pichis, ed., Charles Baudelaire, Oeuvres Complètes, Paris, 1866, pp. 1148, 1150.

In the following year, in 1863, a very fine impression was exhibited at the Salon in Paris and was acquired by George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400306). 20

After publication in 1871, an impression was shown by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in Liverpool and elsewhere and one by Whistler himself, in London, in 1874. 21 One went with a selection of Whistler's other etchings to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1879. Impressions were shown in print dealer's exhibitions by Craibe Angus in Glasgow, Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) and H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York. Impressions also starred in private shows for connoisseurs and collectors; for instance, Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent what was termed a 'Trial Proof' to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400201). 22 One impression, lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), was shown in the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400302). 23

Impressions were also included in the principal Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, including New York and Boston in 1904 and one lent by King Edward VII to the London exhibition in 1905. 24

20: Paris S-d-Refusés 1863 (cat. no. 2756).


22: New York 1881 (cat. no. 55).

23: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 36).

24: New York 1904a (cat. no. 39); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 37); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 32).


A second state of Limehouse was the first of Whistler's etchings to be sold to a public collection. It was then listed as 'Curtis Gin' and was among 16 etchings sold for a total of £10.10.10 by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) to South Kensington Museum on 1 January 1861 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400208). 25 Two years later Whistler sold another impression of the second state to the British Museum for £1.1.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400207). 26

The title causes confusion since Whistler's sales record a 'Limehouse', 'Limehouse Wharf' and 'From Limehouse'. For instance, 'Limehouse Wharf' was sold by Whistler to the Royal Library, Windsor, for £4.4.0 in 1877. 27

At auction a 'first state' of Limehouse fetched £3.5.0. at the Philippe Burty (1830-1890) sale at Sotheby's in 1876, but another - presumably a less interesting impression - brought only £.0.19.0 in the following year. 28 Ten years later, an early proof described as 'trial proof on Japanese paper, before any indications of sky' from the collection of John W. Wilson (dates unknown), fetched £6.6.0. 29 In the same year Whistler himself bought back an impression that had been owned by Edmond Gosselin (1849-1917), for 50 francs, and sold it on to J. Craibe Angus (fl. 1865-1901). 30

Some impressions, though undoubtedly dating from between 1859 and 1871, were returned to Whistler for signing later - Hermann Wunderlich (ca 1839- d.1892) of Wunderlich & Co., for instance, probably asked Whistler to sign one, before selling it to Francis Bullard (1862-1913) of Boston (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400203). Whistler himself gave one to Henry Lee Higginson (1834-1919) also of Boston (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400328).

25: V&A Register of Prints, p. 32.

26: Whistler to W. C. Carpenter, 3 August 1863, GUW #11109.

27: Whistler to Queen Victoria, [19/22 October 1877], GUW #12736; see also letters to F.A.S., 10 October 1877, GUW #12734; to Hogarth, 22-27 October [1877], #12737; and C. A. Howell to Whistler, [1877], #02181.

28: Sotheby's, 30 April 1876 lot 756 bought by 'Courtney'; 12 June 1877 (lot 101) bought by Hogarth.

29: Sotheby's, 22 April 1887 (lot 187).

30: GUW #13098.

Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. sold an impression from the cancelled plate (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400401) and the plate itself to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1896, and gave a similar set to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400403).