Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 78
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 102 x 127 mm
Signed: 'James Whistler' (in inscription) (1-4); removed (5)
Inscribed: '1861' at lower left; 'The Works of James Whistler: Etchings and Dry Points, are on View at E. Thomas' .. Publisher / 39. Old Bond Street' at lower right (1-2); 'London.' added (4); erased (5)
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 67
Catalogues: K.71; M.71; T.44; W.67
Impressions taken from this plate  (67)


Millbank was published as No. 14 in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, (the 'Thames Set'), by Ellis & Green in 1871.


The etching was shown with others in the 'Thames Set' in London in 1861. 12 The Pennells stated that this etching was 'Used as an invitation card to Thomas's Exhibition of Etchings'. 13 This may be partly confirmed by the survival of several impressions inscribed by Whistler (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710309, Graphic with a link to impression #K0710z04).

Lochnan discussed the use of this etching as an advertisement:

12: London Thomas 1861.

13: Pennell 1921C, f. p. 35.

'While continuing to add to his Thames etchings, Whistler also set out to make a plate which could be used as an announcement for the exhibition. He made two: the first of these was Millbank, ... and the second The Little Pool, .... It is unlikely that both were intended to fulfil the same function, although both were inscribed "The Works of James Whistler: Etchings and Drypoints are on view at E. Thomas, 39 Old Bond Street." It is possible that Thomas disliked the first plate and asked Whistler to make a second. ... Little Pool'. 14

14: Lochnan 1984, p. 126.

Soon afterwards, Whistler exhibited an impression with the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, in 1862. Another impression was exhibited in Philadelphia in 1879, and two, an early and late state, were lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (probably Graphic with a link to impression #K0710101, Graphic with a link to impression #K0710526). 15 Impressions went to international exhibitions, including the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It was also shown in an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710502). 16

15: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 94-5). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

16: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 62).

It was included in print dealer's shows such as those of Craibe Angus in Glasgow in 1879, in New York by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. (1902) and by H. Wunderlich & Co. (1898, 1903) while in London in 1903 Obach & Co. exhibited three impressions, 'Trial Proof, First State and Second State'. 17

Finally, impressions were shown after Whistler's death in the comprehensive exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and, lent from the Royal Collection, one was included in the London Memorial Exhibition of 1905. 18

17: New York 1898 (cat. no. 64); London Obach 1903 (cat. nos. 69, 70, 71).

18: New York 1904a (cat. no. 69); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 67).


An impression of the first state was given by Whistler to his friend Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710101). It was later bought by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904). Impressions of the second (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710204) and fourth (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710303) states went to Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910).
It was usually sold with the complete set of Thames etchings. Two of the earliest recorded acquisitions were by the British Museum in 1872 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710306) and 1874 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710305).
Individual impressions were sold at Sotheby's on 12 June 1877, bought by Messrs Hogarth, print dealers, for £0.5.0 and Heywood for £0.12.0, and ten years later, in 1887, bought by Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) for £2.8.0. Prices were uneven and generally rather low. In 1889, for instance, one was bought by B. F. Stevens for £1.10.0. 19

19: Sotheby's, 12 June 1877 (lots 95 and 104); 22 April 1887 (lot 199); 9 December 1889 (lot 317).

Alhough only one impression of the first state is known, several were sold as 'first state' at auction, possibly to suggest rarity and encourage collectors to bid higher. However, it is possible that the clientelle were more knowledgeable than the auctioneers, for these impressions did not realise good prices. In 1892, a 'trial proof' and a 'first state' from the collection of Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), sold for £1.2.0 to 'Blunt' & Thomas Way (1837-1915) respectively. Another, 'on Japanese paper', from the collection of William Richard Drake (1817-1890), went for £0.18.0. The latter was bought by 'Thomas' - possibly Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876). 20 Finally, even a 'first state, with Whistler's dedication' brought only £1.3.9 in 1896. 21 It is possible that this was indeed the one known first state, which had been given by Whistler to his old friend, Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710101).

20: Christie's, 3 March 1892 (lots 119 - 120); 8-9 March 1892 (lot 31).

21: Sotheby's, 15 December 1896 (lot 271), bought by E. Parsons.

Later impressions were dedicated by Whistler to Charles Lock Eastlake (1793-1865) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710313), William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710309), and David Roberts RA (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710z04). Inscribed impressions and those from important early collections tended to gravitate to other major collections. Thus an impression owned by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), was acquired first by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), and then by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710204) who gave it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
Other early collectors in Britain included William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710307); Gerald Potter (1829-1908) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710317); James A. McCallum (1862-1948) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710304); and Guy John Fenton Knowles (1879-1959) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710309).
Cancelled impressions are sometimes seen as individual prints, but were more often kept in the album; one such was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), from Frederick Keppel (1845-1912), in 1896 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710601). Freer also bought a fourth state from Keppel in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0710303).