Chelsea Bridge and Church

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 102
Date: 1871
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 103 x 170 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 7
Known impressions: 56
Catalogues: K.95; M.96; T.53; W.85
Impressions taken from this plate  (56)
Chelsea Bridge and Church was mainly produced in late April or early May 1871.
In 1871 Whistler was preparing for the publication of A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames (the 'Thames Set'), by Frederick Standridge Ellis (1830-1901) of Ellis & Green. Either Ellis or Whistler or both were not satisfied with one plate: it is not entirely clear if this was Chelsea Bridge and Church. Whistler wrote to Ellis from Speke Hall:
'I am very much troubled to think of all the anxiety I have caused you and Mr. Brooker about those two plates - and wish enough they were safely with you where they ought to have been all this time - But now wont it be all right when I return to town? I am at work down here at Mr. Leylands and have carefully put away the plates, under lock and key I think, at home - ... I have had the best intentions with regard to them - but had had so many and such continuous interruptions - that I have never been able to call on you or see to the printing or anything else - Moreover I quite felt that they were too late for last season and surely you dont intend to bring them out before next - and in that case I will yet on my return do all that I can to be useful in the matter - ' 1

1: [March/April 1871], GUW #09087.

Furthermore, he wrote that he could not 'undertake any plate in time for your proposed publication':
'If you will state to your subscribers, that the work on its appearance will contain only 15 plates, and that a sixteenth of the same form as the others shall follow, to fit in with the others, ... an entirely new one and consequently infinitely better - if you will do this I will undertake to give make a new plate ready for printing by the end of April or beginning of May - and hand it to you in lieu of the faulty one in question - you returning me at the same time of course all the impressions that have been taken from it - ' 2

2: [March/April 1871], GUW #09086.

Ellis did not make any such undertaking and it is not clear if he dropped the 'faulty plate' or whether Whistler decided to produce another or rework an earlier plate. In any case, Whistler was working on Chelsea Bridge and Church in late April and early May 1871 and finally wrote to Ellis:
'If you are able to come down here on Saturday at about 2 o'clock, we might look out the paper together and possibly I should be able to start / go back with you on my way to the printers to try the plate - I propose to assist myself this time at the printing and see the thing ... through - ' 3

3: Whistler to F. S. Ellis, [April/May 1871], GUW #01051. See Lochnan 1984, pp. 170-174.

According to Mansfield, he owned an impression of the first state of Chelsea Bridge and Church on which Ellis had written: 'This was the first proof taken from this plate and was printed by the artist himself, May 6, 1871. F. S. E.' 4 Unfortunately this impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K0950101) has not been located, but Mansfield is a very reliable source, and it would seem that Chelsea Bridge and Church was printed in May 1871 and included, as Lochnan comments, at the 11th hour, in the 'Thames Set'. 5

4: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 96).

5: Lochnan, op. cit., pp. 170-174.