Amsterdam, from the Tolhuis

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 99
Date: 1863
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 134 x 211 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right (1-final); butterfly at lower right (7-final)
Inscribed: '1863. / à Amsterdam - Tolhuis. - -' at lower right
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 26
Catalogues: K.91; M.91; T.82; W.82
Impressions taken from this plate  (26)


On 7 February 1878, Louis Gonse, Director of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, asked Whistler for a copper plate for publication. 17 He wrote again on 12 June 1878:

17: GUW #01650.

'M. Blackburn m'a remis votre petite planche - Port d'Amsterdam avec une épreuve. Elle est charmante et je serais fort heureux de la faire paraître dans l'article consacré à vos eaux-fortes. Seulement, je crois que vous avez mal interpreté ma demande et que par ce fait nous ne nous entendons pas bien. Vous me demandez 63 guinées pour cette planche soit plus de 2.000 francs, outre que le prix dépasse celui de la planche la plus chère parue dans la Gazette depuis sa fondation y compris les chefs-d'oeuvre de Jacquemart et de Gaillard, il n'est pas dans les habitudes de la maison de payer les planches d'artistes qui accompagnent un compte-rendu de leur oeuvre. C'est ainsi que nous avons agi avec Meryon, Seymour-Haden, Edwards, Evershed, Legros, etc.
Du reste, la planche pourrait rester votre propriété. Nous vous la remettrions après avoir fait notre tirage. Il est entendu qu'elle serait aciérée.
Si ces conditions vous agréent, cher monsieur, je me ferai un vrai plaisir de faire dans la Gazette un article sur votre beau talent d'aquafortiste. Dans le cas contraire, je me verrais, avec mille regrets, dans la nécessité de vous renvoyer la planche que je me fusse fait cependant un véritable honneur de publier.'
Translated, this reads:
'Mr Blackburn has sent me your small plate - Port of Amsterdam with a print. It is charming and I would be very happy to have it printed in the article devoted to your etchings. However, I believe that you have misinterpreted my request and that for this reason we do not understand each other. You are asking me 63 guineas for this plate, which is over 2,000 francs, apart from the price being higher than the most expensive which has ever appeared in the Gazette since its foundation including masterpieces by Jacquemart and Gaillard, it is not the practice of the Society to pay for artists' plates that are part of an article about their work. This is what we agreed with Meryon, Seymour-Haden, Edwards, Evershed, Legros, etc. / Besides, the plate could remain your property. / We would return it to you after having made our prints. It is understood that it would be steel faced. / If you agree to these conditions, dear sir, it will give me great pleasure to do an article in the Gazette on your fine talent as an etcher. If not, I shall, with great regret, find it necessary to return to you the plate which I would nevertheless have been truly honoured to have published.' 18

18: GUW #01651.

Whistler's reply was as follows:
'Je regrette infiniment que mes moyens ne me permettent pas de naître dans votre JournalL'article que vous me proposez, comme berceau, me couterait trop cher.Il me faudrait donc reprendre ma planche et rester inconnu jusqu'à la fin des choses, puisque je n'aurais pas été inventé par la Gazette des Beaux Arts.' 19

19: [13/20 June 1878], GUW #01652.

Translated: 'I infinitely regret that my means do not permit me to be born in your Newspaper The article which you are proposing for me, as a cradle, would cost too much - I shall therefore have to take back my plate - and remain unknown until the end of time, since I shall not have been discovered by the Gazette des Beaux Arts.'


Surprisingly rarely exhibited, it was first shown by two collectors in exhibitions in America. First it was lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) to the exhibition of the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910117). 20 Then an impression was shown at the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910103). 21 Impressions also appeared in two print dealers' shows, at H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910106) and 1903, and by Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 22

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown at the Memorial Exhibitions, at the Grolier Club in New York, and in Boston, both in 1904, and in Paris and London in 1905. Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the London Memorial show in 1905. 23

20: New York 1881 (cat. no. 111).

21: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 77).


23: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 82).


Prices for this etching between 1875-1878, as sold to William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910107), Marcus Bourne Huish (1843-1904), Alfred Chapman (1839-1917) and Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890), ranged from £2.2.0 to £3.3.0. 24 In 1879 Whistler attempted to sell proofs to the Fine Art Society, and wrote to Marcus Bourne Huish (1843-1904), 'The Amsterdam was a commission - from you - two proofs - I printed them specially and understood from Mr Brown that I was to have the cheque the next day - ' 25

Whistler sold impressions regularly in the 1880s. Messrs Dowdeswell owned a second state that was trimmed and signed by Whistler about 1885, and the artist's records include more sales to Dowdeswells, two at £6.6.0 each, on two occasions in 1887. 26 One was sold to Samuel Joshua (1833 or 1834 - d. 1907), for £8.8.0 in 1889; after that sale, Whistler recorded that he still had one in stock, which may be the one he sold to Elbert Jan Van Wisselingh. (1848-1912). 27

At auction, impressions from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) fetched £2.5.0 and £2.10.0 in 1892, bought by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., and one of these was probably the impression acquired by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910103). The London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) acquired one at £1.14.0 from the William Richard Drake (1817-1890) sale at Christie's, also in 1892. Five years later, prices remained much lower than the prices Whistler had received, and one sold at Christie's for £2.10.0 . 28

24: [March/April 1875?] , #07573; 10 October 1877, #12734; 9 August 1878,#07966; 12 October-5 November [1877], #12735.

25: Whistler to Huish, 9 July 1879, GUW #01101.

26: To Dowdeswell, 28 April 1887, GUW #13020, and 27 July 1887, #08677.

27: Whistler to S. Joshua, 14 June 1889, GUW #13036; list, 18 July 1889, #13235, and account, [31 July 1889], #12724.

28: Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lots 131-132); Christie's, 8-9 March 1892 (lots 306-7); Christie's, 13-14 March 1897 (lot 296).

Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) owned at least two early impressions, which were sold through H. Wunderlich & Co. to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910104, Graphic with a link to impression #K0910106); Freer had already, in 1888, bought another first state (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910105). Other collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who bought both an early and final state (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910117, Graphic with a link to impression #K0910410); William Loring Andrews (1837-1927), who gave one to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1883 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910109); James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910z01); Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924), Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) and Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951), and thence to Boston Public Library (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910116); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910403); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910102); and Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936), probably bought from Colnaghi's (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910113). Obach & Co. sold an impression of the final state to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, in 1902 for £15.0.0. (Graphic with a link to impression #K0910404).