Old Hungerford Bridge

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 76
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 140 x 215 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 65
Catalogues: K.76; M.76; T.37; W.80
Impressions taken from this plate  (65)


Published as 'Old Hungerford' in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, (the 'Thames Set'), by Ellis & Green in 1871.
The set, including this etching, was reviewed enthusiastically by F.G. Stephens:
'Another soft and broad study is No. 6 'Old Hungerford' - as the bridge there appeared during the Thames embankment works - a scene which was very dear to the artist's eyes. Here, the etcher's knowledge of water is exquisitely displayed by the treatment of the reflections from the rigging and hull of a sailing barge which lies athwart the stream. The reflections are broken, and seem, if the term be admitted, to shimmer as the water moves. The etching is an admirable composition. 12

12: The Athenaeum, 26 August 1871, pp. 280-81.


It was first shown at the Société des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1862, and a year later at the Royal Academy in London. 13 In 1873 it was among six etchings lent by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) to a major exhibition in Vienna. Thomas wrote 'Of this plate, I only know one proof (excluding the published copies), which is now at the Vienna Exhibition, having been lent by Mr. Anderson Rose.' 14 In 1874 Rose lent his collection to several venues including Liverpool. Another impressions was exhibited by Whistler, in his first one-man show in London, in the same year. 15

It was also shown by clubs for connoisseurs and collectors like the Union League Club in New York, to which Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent a 'Rare proof; very delicate etching' (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760323). 16 Impressions were exhibited in Philadelphia in 1879 and, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), in 1902. 17 Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent one to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760303). 18

Possibly the bustling river scene with its steam ships and ferries, bridges and factories, appealed to industrialists, for an impression was lent by Messrs Mawson, Swan & Morgan to the Royal Mining, Engineering, and Industrial Exhibition (International and Colonial), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1889 and one was included in the Art and Industrial Exhibition in Wolverhampton in 1902. C. Lewis Hind wrote appreciatively 'how good it is suddenly to come upon thirty etchings by Mr. Whistler, some of the Thames and Venice pieces, and other little masterpieces, so small yet so sufficient'. 19


14: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 37).

15: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 19); Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 491).

16: New York 1881 (cat. no. 109).

17: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 (80)).

18: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 75).

19: C. L[ewis] H[ind], 'Art at Wolverhampton', The Academy and Literature, 19 July 1902.

It was included in print dealer's exhibitions such as those of Craibe Angus in Glasgow, and both Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) and Wunderlich's in New York. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression from the latter in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760202). 20

20: New York 1898 (cat. no. 75).

After the artist's death, impressions were shown at the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions in Boston (organised by the Copley Society) and New York (at the Grolier Club) in 1904, and one was lent from the Royal Collection to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 21

21: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 64); New York 1904a (cat. no. 83); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 80).


In 1875 Whistler mentioned 'The oyster smacks old Hungerford Market' , which may have been this etching, as sent on approval to William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), priced at £2.2.0. 22 Two years later he again listed 'Oyster Smacks' in a sale to the Fine Art Society. The invoice is annotated with a cryptic code (a combination of asterics and dots): 'Oyster Smacks . . . . 6 ' ' . . . . ¦ 6-6-0'. 23 This may be a record of impressions printed, mounted or sold. It is not clear whether he was selling six impressions at £1.1.0 or one at £6.6.0 or if this was the sixth of eight impressions printed.

Impressions of the first two states are very rare and appealed to a select group of major collectors, including Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924), who acquired a first state (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760105). Second states went to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760z06), Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760201 , which has not been located); and Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760202), the latter ultimately going to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1898. Freer had a third state already, bought in 1888 from Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760304) and from the same source he acquired a cancelled impression in 1896 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760401).

The main edition was printed in the third state, and some three dozen impressions have been located. Public collections bought good representative impressions. The British Museum was the first, in 1874 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760308). E.D. Wallace (fl. 1871-1887), American, poet, novelist and writer on art, reported in considerable detail on a visit to the British Museum to see Whistler's works:

22: Whistler to W. C. Alexander, [March/April 1875?], GUW #07573.

23: Whistler to F.A.S., 10 Oct. 1877, GUW#12734.

'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, ...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. In the etching of "Hungerford Bridge," on the Thames, showing the old bridge and the new iron bridge for the railway to Charing Cross, the foreground represents a mass of water in the midst of the river, the effect being produced by a few strokes that betoken a wonderful independence of the artist's style - no frittering of detail where the idea is once arrested and fixed. This etching was loaned by Mr. Anderson Rose to the Vienna exhibition.There are twenty views at least of the Thames and its bridges, some full of life and movement - steamboats puffing and paddling up and down the stream, crowds of foot-passengers eagerly pushing their way over the river thoroughfares and vessels loading and unloading their freight on the banks and wharves of the river.' 24

24: '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.

Following the British Museum's good example, after many years, other museums added impressions to their collections. the Städel Museum, Dresden, bought one from Emil Richter in 1894 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760327); Constantine Alexander Ionides (1833-1900) bequeathed a good example to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1901 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760331); the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, bought one in November 1897 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760325) and Obach & Co., London print dealers, sold another to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, for £9.0.0 in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0760334).