The Pool

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 49
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 140 x 217 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower left
Inscribed: '1859.' at lower left
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 85
Catalogues: K.43; M.42; T.47; W.41
Impressions taken from this plate  (85)


The Pool was published in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set'), by F. S. Ellis of Ellis & Green in 1871.
F.G. Stephens reviewed the publication enthusiastically, commenting on this etching:
'No. 7 'The Pool', more delicate in appearance, but not really a less difficult achievement, is a long vista of the curving banks of the river, with their load of irregular, rude and quaint bridges, - a maze of piles and sheds of all sorts and sizes, in brick and timber, showing lighters loaded and unloaded, the stark lines of the rigging of a docked barque, while here and there is a tower and flag; ending in a church spire, and having what must be called a foreground of ponderous craft moored by a wall, and a waterman in a lumbering wherry, who is evidently sitting with some complacency for his "picture" as the artist willed. Here the river has a surface like glass and its strong tide is only expressed by the tautness of the chain, which with its anchor down, clings to the bottom and holds the heavily laden lighter Jane in her place. The character of the stream and its accompaniments are marvellously expressed here. The soft, hazy day and faint clouds in the sky are in keeping with the place and time. This is a broad study with very delicate effect.' 13

13: The Athenaeum, 26 August 1871, p. 280. I am grateful to M. Hopkinson for this reference.


It was first exhibited in 1861 at Thomas's print shop in London. 14

It was then shown, in 1863, in a group of 'Vue des bords de la Tamise, eau-forte' with Limehouse [48] and Rotherhithe [70], at the Salon in Paris. 15 Philippe Burty (1830-1890), reviewed the group, not entirely favourably:

14: London Thomas 1861. See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

15: Paris Salon 1863a ( 2757).

'Les eauxfortes de M. Whistler parle l'anglais le plus pur. L'originalité de la conception est sans conteste. Malheureusement, M. Whistler s'est fait une "théorie des premières plans" qui imprime à ces dessins je ne sait quelle apparence photographique vraiment regrettable. Il pose sur ses maudits premiers plans des personnages ou des objets qu'il traduit sans les modeler avec la exageration relative de masse. Soit nuit beaucoup à l'interet de la pièce qui ne commence pas au second ou au troisième plan.' 16

16: P. Burty, 'Salon Gravure', Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1863, 1 series, vol. 15, pp. 147-160; see also Whistler to H. Fantin Latour, [25 May/10 June 1863], GUW #08044.

Translated, Burty's review reads: 'The etchings of Mr Whistler speak purest English. The originality of the design is without question. Unfortunately, Mr Whistler had a "theory of the foreground" which gives these drawings a sort of really regrettable photographic appearance. He places on his cursed foregrounds characters or objects, which he delineates without modelling with the relative exaggeration of mass. As a result much of the interest of the piece does not start until the middle or distant area.'
The Pool was also sent to the Royal Academy in 1863. 17 F.G. Stephens was disgusted to find that it had been 'skied': 'in the dismal Octagon Room', he wrote, 'are placed some of the exquisite dry-point productions of Mr. Whistler, whose fame the Royal Academy ignores by placing the marvellous plates that measure five inches by eight or so, at the top of the room, ... in the shade'. 18 However, he wrote, later: 'they deserve noble places and will reward pains taken to obtain a sight of them. ... a drypoint, styled Weary, a lady resting back in her chair, has exquisite tone and "colour".' 19 F.G. Stephens praised the exhibited prints : 'they deserve noble places and will reward pains taken to obtain a sight of them. ... Among the finest works here is The Pool ... a view among the shipping and along the shore.' 20 Whistler's group included a variety of subjects and techniques, including two figure subjects, two Thames bridges, a river scene and an interior. The Pennells commented that the oil painting, The Last of Old Westminster was sent with the six etchings:

17: London RA 1863 (cat no. 1003).

18: The Athenaeum, 16 May 1863, p. 655.

19: The Athenaeum, 23 May 1863, p. 688 (in GUL PC1/17).

20: [F.G. Stephens], 'The Royal Academy', Athenaeum, No. 1856, 23 May 1863, p. 688.

'Weary; Old Westminster Bridge; Hungerford Bridge; Monsieur Becquet; The Forge; The Pool. ... [The painting] failed to impress Academicians in 1863, and was badly hung, as the prints also were, reproductive work being then, as now, preferred to original etching.' 21

21: Pennell 1908, pp. 101-2.

After publication in 1871, it was shown by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in a travelling show in Liverpool and elsewhere in 1874. 22 Impressions also starred in private and public exhibitions. One was shown in a loan exhibition in Philadelphia in 1879. An early impression categorised as 'Rare; trial proof' was lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) to the Union League Club in New York in 1881. 23

Examples appeared in print dealer's exhibitions including those of Craibe Angus in Glasgow, F. Keppel & Co. (1902) and H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York (1889, 1898, 1903), and a 'trial proof' and a later state were shown at Obach & Co. in London in 1903. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought three impressions from Wunderlich's in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430304, Graphic with a link to impression #K0430303, Graphic with a link to impression #K0430404). 24

As Whistler's fame grew, the etchings were in demand for major shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Impressions were seen in international exhibitions including the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924). 25 It was among etchings considered by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), for exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and one was lent by Mansfield to a show at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430319). 26 Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression to the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430403). 27 Another was shown at an art and industrial show in Wolverhampton in 1902.

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown at several Memorial Exhibitions including the Grolier Club, New York, 1904 and in Paris, 1905. An impression owned by King Edward VII was lent to the London show in 1905, and was probably sold soon afterwards, but has not been located. 28

22: Liverpool 1874(cat. no. 490).

23: New York 1881 (cat. no. 60).

24: New York 1898 (cat. no. 38).

25: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552).

26: Mansfield to Whistler, 10 January 1893, GUW #04000. Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 (41)).

27: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 39).

28: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 41).


A third state of The Pool was among the first of Whistler's etchings to be sold to a public collection. It was then listed as 'Lighter, Jane No 6' 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 #K0430324). 29 Two years later, Whistler offered an impression of The Pool (as 'From Tunnel pier') to the British Museum for £1.1.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430322). He wrote '1st state' on it although this was not strictly accurate; it could be considered the first state after the trial proofs. 30

Early impressions of the third state may have been bought in France, by Jules Gerbeau (d. 1906), and Jules Michelin (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430301, Graphic with a link to impression #K0430302) for instance, and in London by William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430309). James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) had three impressions of The Pool, which were sold in his sale Sothebys, 27 June 1876 et seq. (lots 719-721). Two were described as the first state before drypoint in the sky, second as on Japanese paper, and another state with the sky' was also on Japanese paper. The first of these was bought by Galsworthy.

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

30: Whistler to W. H. Carpenter, 17 October 1863, GUW #11109.

Whistler sold some impressions direct to collectors. He sold one 'Pool' to Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890), in 1877 for £1.10.0, and may have given one to Lewis Page Jarvis (1845-1900), as a gift to go with the recently completed Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis [y206]. However, the latter gift may have been Wapping - The Pool [180]; confusion arises between etchings with similar titles, making it difficult to trace subsequent sales by the artist. 31

Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), bought one impression of The Pool in 1888 and examples of both the third and fourth states ten years later (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430304, Graphic with a link to impression #K0430303, Graphic with a link to impression #K0430404). An impression of the fourth state was apparently submitted to Whistler about 1890 and signed with his butterfly, possibly at the request of a dealer or purchaser - in this case, Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430403).

Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892), bought a third state at the Rev. Walter Field's sale at Sotheby's on 12 June 1877 for £2.10.0 and sold it to the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, in July 1877, for £3.3.0. By 1898, when P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, sold another to the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden, the price had risen to £10.0.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0430321).

31: C. A. Howell to Whistler, [November 1877], GUW #02180; Whistler to A. M. Jarvis, [6 September 1879], GUW #09170.

Print dealers dominated the auction market. At auction, an 'early proof on old Dutch paper' was bought at the Arthur Thomas sale in 1873 by Colnaghi's for £1.16.0, 32 and Whistler used this as a guide to charging dealers such as Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904). Whistler wrote to Avery after the sale:

32: Sotheby's, 23 June 1873 (lot 127).

'All were bought by Colnaghi, for selling again of course - except the Forge, which was bought by Ralph Thomas 33 - So you see even at an auction the prices these proofs fetch and you cannot expect me to let you have them at lower rates - Besides of course you can ask them as well in America as in London -'. 34

33: Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876).

34: Whistler to S. P. Avery, [7 July 1873], GUW #10628.

Another 'early impression, but laid down' from 'the Late Mr. John W. Wilson, of the Avenue Hoche, Paris' sold at Sotheby's in 1887 to the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), for £3.3.0. Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), bought another from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) in 1892, for £3.12.6. 35 In the same year, Deprez & Gutekunst paid slightly less, £2.17.6, at Sir W. R. Drake's sale at Christie's. There was competition at the sale of Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton, in 1897, which forced Dunthorne to bid - successfully - up to £6.10.0. 36 In addition, many complete sets were sold, and some were sold in an album or folder with the rest of the 'Thames Set'. The late F. W. Cozens sale included 16 etchings of scenes with the Thames which fetched £7.0.0. at Sotheby's on 24 November 1890. 37

35: Sotheby's, 22 April 1887 (lot 190) and 3 March 1892 (lot 91).

36: Christie's, 8-9 March 1892 (lot 338); 13-4 July 1897 (lots 306, 315).

37: The Times, London, 25 November 1890,