Speke Hall: The Avenue

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 101
Date: 1870-1878
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 228 x 152 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right (1-12); butterfly lower left (11-12); both removed (13-final)
Inscribed: '1870. / Speke Hall.' at lower right
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 14
Known impressions: 22
Catalogues: K.96; M.95; W.86
Impressions taken from this plate  (22)


Speke Hall: The Avenue was never published.


This much admired etching was one of the very few shown by Whistler at the Grosvenor Gallery, where it appeared in 1879. 15 By then not only had Whistler and Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892) quarrelled, but Leyland's lease of Speke Hall had expired.

Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent what he called a 'trial proof' (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960205) and a later state, 'Figure changed and work added 1870' (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960z02) to the Union League Club in New York in 1881. 16

Impressions were for sale in print dealers' shows in New York, with H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 and 1903, and at Obach & Co. in London, also in 1903, where first and second states were on view. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought one from Wunderlich's in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960203). 17

Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent one to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960202). 18 Another was probably lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) to the first Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902. 19

After Whistler's death, impressions were exhibited in the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions in New York, Boston, Paris and London. King Edward VII lent an impression to the Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960302). 20

15: London Grosvenor 1879 (cat. no. 270).

16: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 116, 117).

17: New York 1898 (cat. no. 81); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

18: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 81).

19: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947).

20: New York 1904a (cat. no. 89); Boston 1904 (cat. nos. 68, 69); Paris Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 328); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 86).


There are records of about 30 impressions, not all of which have been located.
Speke Hall was one of the etchings printed and marketed by Whistler around 1877 in a somewhat desperate attempt to make money. In 1877 he sold one impression to Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890), for £1.1.0, and two more, to Howell and Jane Noseda (b. 1813 or 1814), for £2.2.0 each. 21 Howell probably helped both with the printing and selling of these prints.

Others were sold to Colnaghi's (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K0960502), South Kensington Museum (now the V&A - but this is no longer in the collection and must have been returned) and the Royal Library, Windsor for £4.4.0 each from 1877-1878. The latter was sold from the Royal Collection shortly after the Whistler Memorial Exhibition of 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960302). 22 A newspaper reported :

21: Howell to Whistler, [15 Nov. 1877], GUW #02179; Whistler to Howell, 9-11 Nov. [1877], GUW #12738.

22: Whistler to Colnaghi's, 10 Nov. [1877], to Howell, 12 Oct.-5 Nov. [1877], to Queen Victoria, [19/22 Oct. 1877], and to J. A. Chapman, 9 Aug. 1878; GUW #12739, #12735, #12736, #07966.

'The Queen has secured for the Royal Library at Windsor a set of Mr. Whistler's recent dry points, of which there can be little doubt Mr. Ruskin would highly approve. If he would not - tant pis for him - and his knowledge of fine masterly work.' 23

23: Unidentified press-cutting, GUL PC3/21.

These sales and puffs in the press having failed to stem the flood of Whistler's debts, Speke Hall was among etchings sold at Whistler's bankruptcy sale of works of art removed from the White House, Whistler's house and studio in Tite Street. Thomas Way (1837-1915) reported to Whistler, who had taken refuge in Venice: 'The sale is over & I think most satisfactorily - Your works have sold very well - The Etchings of The Forge - Speke & Battersea fetched - Twenty pounds ten shillings'. 24 The sale included The Forge [86], Battersea Reach [96] and either Speke Hall: The Avenue [101] or Speke Shore [139] (described in the catalogue as 'Lady with dog'); they were bought by 'Howe' (C. A. Howell) for £20.10.0. 25

Several of the earliest proofs were acquired by Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891). After his death, an impression of the first state from his collection fetched the high price of £9.12.0 and a 'first trial proof', £8.8.0, (both bought by the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851)), and a 'second trial proof' (probably Graphic with a link to impression #K0960204), was bought by Deprez & Gutekunst for £4.15.0. 26 Five years later an impression from the collection of the late Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot was sold at Christie's for £2.18.0, bought by yet another print dealer, Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., New York. 27 Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression of the third state from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) through H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960203).

24: T. Way to Whistler, 12 February 1880, GUW #06080.

Impression: K0960305
Surprisingly, Whistler only retained a fragment of the third state for himself - reproduced above (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960305) - so the Hunterian Art Gallery, recipients of his estate, had to buy their own example, a slightly later impression of the fifth state, from P. & D. Colnaghi in 1967 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960502, reproduced below).
Impression: K0960502
Other early collectors included Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960204); Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), bought about 1878 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960z02, Graphic with a link to impression #K0960205); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) by 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960202); Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938) and Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960103); W. B. Dickerman (1846-1923) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960605); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960802); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960702); Charles Deering (1852-1927) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960602); Theodore de Witt (dates unknown), Seward Prosser (fl. 1924) and Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960810); Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960504). Later collectors included Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0960402).