Black Lion Wharf

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 54
Date: 1859
Medium: etching
Size: 153 x 229 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right
Inscribed: '1859.' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 104
Catalogues: K.42; M.41; T.35; W.40
Impressions taken from this plate  (104)


Black Lion Wharf was published as No. 1 in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames (the 'Thames Set') by Ellis & Green in 1871. 19

19: 'A Whistle for Whistler', Punch, 17 June 1871.

A journalist praised the 'Thames Set', and particularly this etching:
'Of similar character, [to Thames Police [53]] but more brilliant in its contrasts, and more powerful in colour than the last is No. 1, 'Black Lion Wharf'. Here cranes, wooden galleries of delicious picturesqueness and rarity, bow - windows, an orange " clipper" with raking spars, being those of a three-masted schooner, steps that the tide has set away, a lofty and smoky chimney, and the like incidents, supply a perfect treasure of material of which Mr. Whistler is master.' 20

20: [F.G. Stephens], The Athenaeum, 26 August 1871, pp. 280-81. I am grateful to M.Hopkinson for this reference.

A large wood engraving of Black Lion Wharf by C. Hentschel was published in the Daily Chronicle, London, on 22 February 1895.
A photographic reproduction of Black Lion Wharf with a small schooner etched in the margin at bottom left, below the image, was published at some time, and copies of this are to be found in some public collections (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420z18).


Black Lion Wharf was widely exhibited and well-known. It was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1860 as 'Thames - Black Lion Wharf'. F.G. Stephens wrote: 'By this gentleman, whose name is quite new to us, is an admirable series of etchings.' 21 It was exhibited in the following year with the rest of the 'Thames Set' in London in the print-shop of Edmund Thomas (1842-1883), and in 1862 at international exhibitions in London and Paris. 22

After publication in 1871, Black Lion Wharf was shown by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in Liverpool and by Whistler himself, in London in 1874. Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent an impression to the Union League Club in New York in 1881. 23

It starred in a number of public and international shows, including Philadelphia in 1879, Berlin in 1881 (one was bought by the Kupferstichkabinett in 1882, Graphic with a link to impression #K0420212), Buffalo in 1901 and Wolverhampton in 1902. An impression was shown at the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924). George W. Bramhall, of Orange, N. J., lent an impression to the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) sent one to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420302), and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1902. 24

At print dealer's shows, impressions were exhibited by Craibe Angus in Glasgow in 1879, by H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 - bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420203) - and 1903, and F. Keppel & Co. in New York in 1904. 25

Impressions were also shown in the principal Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. Mansfield lent his impression to the Boston exhibition in 1904, two impressions appeared at the Grolier Club in New York in the same year, and single impressions in Paris in 1905, and, lent by King Edward VII to the London Memorial in 1905. 26

21: 'The Royal Academy', The Athenaeum, 19 May 1860, p. 685. London RA 1860 (cat. no. 902)

22: London Thomas 1861; London Int. 1862. Paris Soc. Nat. 1862.

23: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 499); London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 10); New York 1881 (cat. no.58 ).

24: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-29); Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2217 (1634)); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 38); Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no.947 (40)); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

25: Glasgow 1879; New York 1898 (cat. no. 37); New York 1904a ( cat. no. 42).

26: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 34);New York 1904a ( cat. no. 42);London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 40); Paris Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 310).


The only known impression of the first state of Black Lion Wharf was acquired by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420101). It is clear that Whistler counted this as a working proof and that the second state was what he considered the first state.
The second state was widely distributed. It was among 16 etchings - the first of Whistler's etchings to be sold to a public collection - 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 #K0420222). 27 Two years later, in 1863, Whistler sold another, asserting that it was a '1st state', to the British Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420209). 28

He probably sold or gave one to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), since it is dedicated by Whistler to Lucas (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420207), and to William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), again stating that it was '1st. State. / Early proof -' (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420221). Other early impressions of the second state went to Avery in New York (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420201), Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) in London (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420203), Jan Veth (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420223) and Carel Vosmaer (1826-1888) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420214) in the Netherlands (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420223). In 1882 Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) sold a second state to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, as part of a group of 301 prints for £685.7.3 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420212).

A large edition of over forty impressions was made of the fourth state. One fourth state was sold by another dealer, Otto Gutekunst (ca 1865-after 1939), to the Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden, in 1897, for 85 DM (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420325). One was owned by Henry F. Sewall (1816-1896), and after his death was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420323); Joseph Pennell (1860-1926), gave one as part of the E. R. and J. Pennell Collection to the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420324); and Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890) bequeathed a fine impression to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1901 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420334).

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

28: Whistler to W. H. Carpenter, British Museum, Letterbook 1863, GUW #11109.

Although Black Lion Wharf was largely sold at auction as part of the 'Thames Set', it did occasionally appear as an individual lot. One owned by Philippe Burty (1830-1890) was sold at Sotheby's on 30 April 1876 (lot 753) and bought by Messrs Hogarth for £3.4.0. At the Hotel Drouot in Paris on 31 March 1884 (lots 286-287) proofs of the first and second state were bought by Edmond Gosselin (1849-1917) for 21 fr. and 11 fr. respectively. It was probably one of these that was sold back by Gosselin to Whistler for 50 fr. - a good profit - in 1888. 29

29: 28 December 1888, GUW #13076.

An impression on Japanese paper from the collection of John W. Wilson (dates unknown) was bought by the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) in 1887 for £2.12.6, Messrs Dowdeswell paid £3.0.0 for an impression at Sotheby's in December 1889, and Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) paid £3.3.0 at the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) in 1892. Ellis - possibly the original publisher Frederick Standridge Ellis (1830-1901)- bought another impression for £3.12.6 from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher at Christie's in 1897. 30

A few impressions of the cancelled plate were sold in an album - one of these was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1896 from Frederick Keppel & Co., New York (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420401). Whistler himself did not own a cancelled set, but one such set came to auction in London and was acquired by the Hunterian Art Gallery to add to their important Whistler collection, which is mainly based on the artist's estate (Graphic with a link to impression #K0420403).

30: Sotheby's, 22 April 1887 (lot 189); 12 December 1889 (lot 782); and 3 March 1892 (lot 90); Christie's, 13-4 July 1897 (lot 308).