Riault (The Wood Engraver)

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 69
Date: 1860
Medium: drypoint
Size: 230 x 154 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right
Inscribed: '1860.' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 22
Catalogues: K.65; M.65; T.58; W.62
Impressions taken from this plate  (22)


artist, burin, man seated, printmaking tools, wood-block, wood-engraver, work-table, worker.


There are several variations on the title, as follows:

'Graveur' (1862/1864, Whistler). 1
'Riault' (1873/1874, Whistler). 2
'Portrait (known as "The Wood Engraver")' (1874, Pall Mall Galleries). 3
'Portrait of M. Riault, known as "Le Graveur"' (1874, James Anderson Rose (1819-1890)). 4
'La Graveur' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 5
'Riault. The engraver' (1881, Union League Club). 6
'The Engraver' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 7
'Engraver (The) Portrait of M Riault' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 8
'Riault' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 9
'Riault, the Engraver' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 10

'Riault (The Wood Engraver)' combines elements of the titles used by Whistler and later cataloguers. Adding Riault's profession emphasizes Whistler's purpose, to produce a group of portraits of people in different activities, crafts or professions (e.g. Z. Astruc, Editor of 'L'Artiste' [36]).

1: [May 1862/1864?], GUW #12745.

2: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K0650201.

3: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 38).

4: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 484).

5: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 58).

6: New York 1881 (cat. no. 88).

7: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 62).

8: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

9: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 65).

10: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 65).


A three-quarter length portrait of a bearded, balding man, sitting at the left of a high workman's table, facing right. He is bending over a thick wood-block that rests on a pad, held firmly by his left hand, while he engraves upon it with his right. Upon the table are four burins. In the background at the right is a framed print. There is shading to left of the engraver's right shoulder and between his figure and the table.


Riault's appearance in Whistler's drypoint suggests a man of at least 40, and possibly older.
Paul Riault (fl. 1852-1863), a wood engraver born in Rouen, exhibited at the Salon between 1852-1863. In 1862 he was recorded as a wood engraver at 40 rue des Saints-Pères, in the artist's quarter of Paris. 11 He engraved works by Bertall, François and Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (1832-1883). 12 Riault's high quality wood engravings included an engraving after H. Valentin published 1853-1854.

According to Mansfield, on the impression of Whistler's portrait of Riault in his collection someone had written 'Carpentier dit Riault.' 13 It is not clear what this meant or on what the information was based. Paul Claude Michel Le Carpentier was born in Rouen in 1787 and died in Paris in 1877. He was a painter of history scenes and portraits, a sculptor and engraver, trained under his father Charles-Louis Franc Le Carpentier, and later a pupil of Jacques-Louis David (1829-1886), John le Barbier and Paillot de Montabert. 14 He exhibited at the Salon between 1817 and 1838 and again in 1853.

In 1860 Carpentier would have been 73 years old. Despite the coincidences - the same first name, 'Paul', and birthplace (Rouen, along with several other artists of that name) - he seems too old to have been the 'Riault' of Whistler's portrait.

11: Annuaire des artistes et des amateurs, Paris, 1862, p. 58, accessed on-line 2010.

12: Bénédite 1905 A.

13: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 65).

14: (accessed 2010.05).