The Punt

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 82
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 120 x 166 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower left (1-3); 'W' partly removed (4-final)
Inscribed: '1861.' at lower left (1-3); partly removed (4-final)
Set/Publication: Junior Etching Club, 1862
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 35
Catalogues: K.85; M.86; T.85; W.68
Impressions taken from this plate  (35)


Comparative image
Passages from Modern English Poets was first published in 1862 by Day and Son Ltd., Lithographers and Publishers, 6 Gate Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, with 185 pages and forty-seven etched illustrations by the Junior Etching Club.
It was published in four different editions, small quarto, quarto, folio and large folio. In the large paper editions, The Punt has the printed annotation 'Pl. 7.' and 'J. Whistler'; in the small paper editions 'London, Published December 1st, 1861, by Day and Son, Lith. to the Queen' is added. A larger quarto edition - reproduced below - was published by William Tegg in 1876.
Comparative image
Some later editions include reproductions and have no platemark. The lines in the image appear very thin, and only a partial signature is visible.

According to the Pennells: 'Other work he showed elsewhere was also praised. The Punt and Sketching, published in Passages from Modern English Poets, were at once singled out for admiration.' 12 There was a certain amount of truth in this assertion.

F.G. Stephens in The Athenaeum found Whistler's two etchings 'beyond praise' and Charles Mackay in The London Review, commented 'Mr. Whistler, a man with a most genuine gift for etching, sends two designs. In 'The Angler' the water is liquid, the knolled distance with trees pretty, and the sky, though scratchy, has motion and recession.' 13

Three years later, when the volume was re-issued, one journalist stated: 'Of the landscape prints the contributions of Mr. Whistler are much the best'. 14 The Morning Post added, moderately: ''The Angler's Soliloquy' is illustrated by Whistler, and though sketchy, is very suggestive.' And, appropriately, a review in The Sporting Gazette Limited praised: 'two charming aquatic subjects by J. Whistler, though only slight sketches, are highly effective, and display no little artistic ability. They are Plate 7, 'The Angler', in illustration of Reynolds' 'Angler's Saliloquy' [sic] and 45 'River scene', to which Charles Mackay's pleasing verses gave birth.' 15

12: Pennell 1908, I, pp. 91-92, 96-97.

13: The Athenaeum, 7 June 1862, p. 765; 'Art and Science. The Junior Etching Club', The London Review ..., 6 September 1862, p. 218. See also The Lady's Newspaper, 14 June 1862, p. 370. Thanks to Martin Hopkinson for this and many other references!

14: Pall Mall Gazette, 18 December 1865. See also The Standard, 25 December 1865, p. 6.

15: Morning Post, London, 19 December 1865, p. 2; The Sporting Gazette Limited, 6 January 1866, p. 3.


Surprisingly few exhibitions are recorded, possibly because it was published in book form. It appeared in exhibitions organised by the Union League Club in New York in 1881, lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850201), and by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938). 16

Impressions were exhibited by print dealers, particularly by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850202, bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919)) and 1903, and also by Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 17

16: New York 1881 (cat. no. 96); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 63).


An impression was also exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and, lent by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934), in the Whistler Memorial show in London in 1905. 18

18: New York 1904a (cat. no. 71); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 68).


Most known impressions are from the various stages of publication, and many are still in the book as published. Some were bought by major libraries as well as print collections soon after publication. The British Museum, for instance, acquired one of Day & Son's 1862 impressions in 1863 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850305).
Few individual sales are recorded, possibly because it was usually sold in book form. At the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) in 1892, it brought only £1.0.0. Even with its companion, Sketching [83], sold by Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) in 1895, it fetched only £1.8.0, being bought by 'Parsons'. 19

19: Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 121) and 25 November 1895 (lot 157).

The publisher may have owned a proof, which eventually went to Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.(Graphic with a link to impression #K0850108). Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) of H. Wunderlich & Co. also owned a 'trial proof' which was eventually bought by the National Gallery of Australia (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850z02). Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) had an impression that was signed - perhaps at his request - by Whistler about 1875 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850201). One owned by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) was sold through Wunderlich's to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850202). Another early impression that possibly went through Wunderlich's was owned by John Caldwell (fl. 1887-1907) and later Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937), and was bought with the Pennell Fund for the Library of Congress (Graphic with a link to impression #K0850204).