From Billingsgate

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 165
Date: 1876/1877
Medium: drypoint
Size: 152 x 229 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right (6-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 28
Catalogues: K.168; M.164; W.130
Impressions taken from this plate  (28)


It was published in an album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, London, 1879.


It was exhibited rarely, although it was shown by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) at the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680501) 11 Other impressions, including one lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680602 ), were shown in the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, and also by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1903. 12

It was also shown in the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. Three impressions of varying states were shown at the Grolier Club, New York, one of which was lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680102); and impressions were also shown in Boston in 1904, and London in 1905. 13

11: New York 1881 (cat. no. 148). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

12: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 115); New York 1903b (cat. no. 97).

13: New York 1904a (cat. no. 133); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 99); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 130).


In 1877 Whistler sold impressions to the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, to Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) and to Messrs Hogarth, print dealers, for £8.8.0 each. 14 The Windsor impression was lent by Edward VII to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. It was sold soon after the show and later bought by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680302).

14: Windsor Castle, [19/22 October 1877], GUW #12736; Hogarth, 22-27 October [1877], #12737; Howell, 12 October-5 November [1877], #12735.

Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938) owned interesting early proofs of a number of Whistler's etchings, which were reproduced in his 1904 memoir of Whistler, and, in the case of From Billingsgate, by E. G. Kennedy in his catalogue of Whistler's etchings. Menpes owned the first of Kennedy's two states and a later state (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680102, Graphic with a link to impression #K1680201 and Graphic with a link to impression #K1680601). 15 It is not clear where and when Menpes acquired these, for he did not meet Whistler until at least 1880, when he helped to print some of the Venetian plates. However, he was frequently in and out of Whistler's studio for the next few years and had access to the store of prints, so he may have acquired them direct, or he may have acquired them later by judicious purchases from collectors or dealers.

15: Menpes 1904 A, repr. f.p. 80; Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 168), states 1, 2 and 6.

One pair of impressions said to be of the 'first' and 'second state', from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), were sold at auction in 1892 and bought by Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) and by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) for £3.3.0. and £1.1.0 respectively. 16 Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) probably bought one of the Hutchinson impressions (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680603) shortly after the auction in 1892 but it was certainly not an early state, which suggests that the auction catalogue may have misrepresented it. This was the earliest impression Freer bought, but he went on to buy four more, an impression from the cancelled set, bought in 1893 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680702); a second state in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680202); a first state in 1904, (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680102); and finally a fourth in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1680402). This demonstrates the comprehensive and obsessive nature of Freer's collecting. Impressions in the cancelled set were bought by collectors, dealers and public collections.

16: Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lots 214, 215).