Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 68
Date: 1860
Medium: drypoint
Size: 230 x 153 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower left (2-final)
Inscribed: '1860.' at lower left (2-final)
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 31
Catalogues: K.64; M.64; T.52; W.61
Impressions taken from this plate  (31)


It was published in an album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, London, 1879.


Although comparatively rare it was exhibited widely. The portrait was drawn in 1860 and first exhibited in the following year, at the Royal Academy - with a slightly eccentric title, 'Mons. Oxenfeld, Littérateur, Paris'. F. G. Stephens commented 'An original etching by the same and felicitous hand , portrait of M. Oxenfeld [sic], Littérateur, Paris, 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.' 13

It was comparatively well-known, being shown in Liverpool and elsewhere with the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in 1874 14 and then in a succession of exhibitions in New York (in 1881, 1898, 1903, 1904), as well as internationals at Chicago in 1893 (lent by Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)), Buffalo in 1901 and Philadelphia in 1902. 15 Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent three impressions, noted as 'very rare' including the 'First trial proof' to the Union League Club in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640101, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640201, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640301). 16 An impression was shown at the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1888, lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924). 17 Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought three impressions that had been exhibited together in Wunderlich's 1898 exhibition (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640102, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640202, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640302). 18 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent his fine, rich impression of the third state to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 and to the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640306). 19

Impressions were also shown in the principal Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. Mrs Frank Gair Macomber lent an impression to the Boston Memorial in 1904 and an impression of the third state was lent by the Board of Education (it is now in the V&A) to the London Memorial show of 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640307). 20

13: 'ART AND ARTISTS, Exhibition at the Royal Academy', The Critic ..., 11 May 1861, p. 606; London RA 1861 (cat. no. 974).

14: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 473)

15: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2230). See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

16: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 85, 86, 87).

17: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-17)

18: New York 1898 (cat. no. 58).

19: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. E56).

20: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 54); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 61).


A fine, richly printed third state of what was listed as 'Portrait Mons Axenfeldt' was among the first group of Whistler's etchings to be sold to a public collection. It 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 #K0640307). 21 Seymour Haden retained at least three more impressions, one of each state, which were sold through H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in November 1898 to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640102, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640202, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640302). who bequeathed them to the Freer Gallery of Art.

Similarly, three different states were bought by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), one inscribed by the artist "1st state - 'Axenfeld' -" (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640101, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640201, Graphic with a link to impression #K0640301). This was about 1874, judging by the butterfly signature. They went with Avery's collection to form the basis of the Print Collection at New York Public Library.

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

In an auction at Sotheby's in 1877 the 'Portrait of Mr. Axenfeld' fetched only £0.16.0. In extreme contrast, ten years later a 'brilliant impression' of 'Portrait of Mr. Oxenfeld, holding a cigarette' in the sale of the collection of John W. Wilson (dates unknown) was bought by Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) for £17.0.0. 22

22: Sotheby’s, 12 June 1877 (lot 103) bought by 'Marlland' [?]; 23 April 1887 (lot 406).

Impressions of the third state were bought by the British Museum in 1872 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640305) and given by William Loring Andrews (1837-1927) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1883 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640304). Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) owned an impression of the third state - a fine impression with rich burr (Graphic with a link to impression #K0640306), which was later owned by Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937), and then Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.