Soupe à trois sous

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 64
Date: 1859
Medium: etching
Size: 152 x 228 mm
Signed: 'Whistler. -' at upper right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 56
Catalogues: K.49; M.49; T.25; W.27
Impressions taken from this plate  (56)


Soupe à trois sous was not published.


It was first exhibited in Whistler's one-man exhibition in 1874, and in the travelling exhibition of the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in 1874. 15

An impression went to an exhibition of French and 'English' art in Berlin in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490132). 16 One was lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490121) and another by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) to the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490103). 17

It was also shown by the New York print dealers, H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1889, when it was described in the New York Tribune as 'the well-known "Soup at Three Sous"'; 18 in 1898, when one was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490104), and in 1903. It was also shown by Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 19

Impressions were also shown in the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, in Boston also in 1904 - lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490131) - and in London and Paris in 1905. An impression from the Royal Collection was lent to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 20 Whistler's biographer, Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) lent one to the Whistler retrospective in Rotterdam in 1906 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490132). 21

15: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 517); London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 28).

16: Berlin 1881 (cat. no. 712).

17: New York 1881 (cat. no. 41); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 27).

18: 13 March 1889 (GUL PC 10/89).

19: New York 1898 (cat. no. 26). See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

20: New York 1904a (cat. no. 29); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 22); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 27).

21: Rotterdam 1906 (cat. no. 96).


In 1872 an impression was sold by 'Mr Thomas' - either Edmund Thomas (1842-1883) or Percy Thomas (1846-1922) - to the British Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490110). 22

E.D. Wallace (fl. 1871-1887), poet, novelist and writer on art, reported in considerable detail on a visit to the British Museum to see Whistler's works, and apparenelty thought that the man at left was a self-portrait:

22: B.M. Register of Purchases ... 1872.

'let us go to the temple of art and science, and, provided with a "reader's ticket," and "special admission to the print room," we find in a row of elegantly bound folio cases, labeled "Etchings of British Artists," the jealously guarded works of Mr. Whistler, of Baltimore. ... The very first glance at Mr. Whistler's etchings is sufficient for a lover of art to learn that every picture is copied from nature direct, and each subject has its characteristic point brought out by a master hand. Whether a river scene in open daylight, or a cabaret by lamplight, an old interior, with stray patches of yellow reflected light, ... all are fully expressed, boldly or delicately, as the fancy may seize the artist, and every touch of the needle leaves a striking detail of the perfect composition of a rare genius. ... we turn to the French set, and revel in the picturesque old interiors, the grim pleasures of the midnight absynthe drinkers in Parisian suburbs, among the market women and girls, ... [we] wonder at the power of art to produce so many, so varied, and so charmingly realistic effects with an etching needle.

A portrait of Mr. Whistler by himself is a striking likeness, but I most admire the picture where he has concealed his face under the shadow of a slouched hat, as he sits in an old cabaret at midnight, with five male figures sleeping around the table in different attitudes of weariness and exhaustion. There sits the artist sketching the scene, boldly attacking the flickering lamp-rays, and drawing the peasants with charming simplicity of outline, transferring the living tableau to his plate. It is related by a friend of Mr.Whistler's that while the artist was engaged in making this picture a gendarme, struck by the unusual appearance of a gentleman in that quarter of Paris at midnight, came and demanded his business there. With characteristic humor Mr. Whistler gave the officer his picture upside down, but the poor man was no wiser for his question when he restored the enigma in perfect silence.' 23

23: 'Mr Whistler's Paintings', Baltimore Gazette, after 1 April 1876, in GUL PC1/75; partially quoting E.D. Wallace, 'The Fine Arts Abroad', Forney's Weekly Press, Philadelphia, 1 April 1876.

H. Stewart Cundell also noted it as among 'remarkable works' in the 'scanty collection of modern etchings in the British Museum.' 24

In the sale of the John W. Wilson (dates unknown) collection in 1887 a 'fine early impression' of Soupe à trois sous was bought by Dowdeswell's for £6.10.0. Most prices were rather lower. One of Wilson's prints was acquired by Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) and sold, after his death, at auction in 1892, when it was bought by Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst for £1.0.0. Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) owned one that was sold at Sotheby's, 31 July 1888 (lot 23) and bought by H. Wunderlich & Co. who almost certainly sold it to Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490103). An impression owned by Richard Beavis (1824-1896) sold at Christie’s in 1897 to 'Parsons' for £1.10.0 (with La Vieille aux Loques). 25

Wunderlich's handled many impressions, some more than once (i.e. Graphic with a link to impression #K0490141), as did F. Keppel & Co., including one bequeathed by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490135). Early collectors included Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), whose impression was sold through Wunderlich's to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490104); James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490128); Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924), and Francis Bullard (1862-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490109); James A. McCallum (1862-1948) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490106) and Ernest Stephen Lumsden (1883-1968) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490119). Other early collectors - mostly American - included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490121); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490108); William Loring Andrews (1837-1927) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490143); Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490131); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490114); Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490132) and Edward de Turck Bechtel (1880-1957) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0490112).

24: 'English Etching', The Standard, London, 25 April 1878, p. 2 (GUL PC1/94).

25: Sotheby's, 22 April 1887 (lot 181); 3 March 1892 (lot 73); Christie's, 17 February 1897 (lot 56).