The 'Adam and Eve', Old Chelsea

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 182
Date: 1878
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 175 x 302 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left (3)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: Hogarth and Son, 1879.
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 92
Catalogues: K.175; M.172; W.144
Impressions taken from this plate  (92)


barge, boat, building, church, public house, river.


There are minor variations in the title, the most significant being the following:

'The ADAM and EVE' (1878). 1
'The Adam and Eve, Old Chelsea' (1879, Grosvenor Gallery). 2
'The "Adam & Eve" - Old Chelsea' (1870s/1880s, possibly Whistler). 3
'Old Chelsea' (1870s/1880s, probably Whistler). 4
'The "Adam and Eve", Old Chelsea' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
'The 'Adam and Eve' Tavern, Old Chelsea' (1904, Frederick Keppel (1845-1912)). 6

The 'Adam and Eve', Old Chelsea is the preferred title, based on the earliest exhibition and annotations.

1: Signboard etched on copper plate.

2: London Grosvenor 1879 (cat. no. 286).

3: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K1750231.

4: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K1750212.

5: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 144).

6: New York 1904b (cat. no. 68).


The Chelsea riverbank of the Thames in London at low tide. To left are two sailing barges with furled sails, and a loaded barge, beached on the shore. A man stands at the edge of the beach, in front of them. In the centre of the beach is a small rowing boat, and at far right, another empty barge, with its hatch open.
Behind the boats are a row of buildings of varying heights, some with dilapidated out-houses, others rising straight up from the shore. Behind them, towards the left, is the dark square tower of Chelsea church, surmounted by a flagpole, and at far left, some trees. 'OLD FERRY WHARF. / J. JOHNSON / COAL MERCHANT' is written on a flat-roofed white-painted three-storey building to right of the tower. Further right - the third building from the right - is a pub with three large multi-paned square windows, balconies on all three levels, and rickety steps leading down to the shore. The pub sign reads 'THE ADAM and EVE - / Wine & Spirit Establ'. Other miscellaneous incomplete inscriptions on the buildings read 'STOP / PIT' and 'UEWS'.


The 'Adam and Eve' was a public house by the River Thames in Chelsea, London. It was demolished to make way for the Chelsea Embankment. The view is taken from Old Battersea Bridge.

Wedmore described the buildings as: 'A row of river-side houses, elaborately drawn; one or two of a dignified and leisurely sort - the gabled 'Adam and Eve' being about the nearest of them.' 7 Mansfield called the buildings 'picturesque.' 8

7: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 144).

8: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no.172).

Lochnan states that Whistler: 'appears to have used a photograph by James Hedderley ... Duke Street houses backing onto the river ... to reconstruct it.' 9

9: Lochnan 1984, pl. 215, p. 297.

Comparative image
James Hedderly, The Adam and Eve, Chelsea, photograph, ca 1865.

The photograph by James Hedderly (ca 1815 - d.1885) shows almost exactly the same view as Whistler's etching, also at low tide, but with noteable differences. Hedderley's view starts with the pub on the left, and omits houses that appear in Whistler's etching (being reversed, they are on the right in the etching). The barges on the shore are different; the white building, immediately to left of the pub in Whistler's etching, is black in the photograph; and the name of the pub does not appear on the balcony in the photograph. This photograph can not have been the only source for Whistler's etching, but there were certainly other photographs of the site.

One for instance, also by Hedderley, shows the pub in the background at left behind the broad beach (it is low tide), the pontoon, ferry boat and barges in the foreground, and with Chelsea Church in the background at far right. 10 Another Hedderley shot is a view taken from the beach at low tide looking directly at the pub with a smart little steam boat - possibly a ferry boat - beached in front of it. 11

Whistler's friend Edwin Edwards (1823-1879) etched The Adam and Eve Inn, Old Chelsea before Whistler and exhibited an impression at the Royal Academy in 1872 (cat. no. 1298). It focusses on the pub, with barges on the river in front. It was published posthumously by his widow in the 'Third Part' of his Old Inns in 1881. 12

The view also appears in numerous works by Walter Greaves (1846-1930), including a watercolour, The Adam and Eve, Old Chelsea, dated '1858', another watercolour, now in Maidstone Art Gallery, and a large oil painting, Chelsea Regatta, said to date from about 1865, in Manchester Art Gallery. Since Greaves's dates are notoriously untrustworthy, it is difficult to know whether any of these actually predate Whistler's etching. 13

The pub also appears in a detailed etching by Greaves that is close to Whistler's view, although it reverses the wall colour on the pub and the adjacent building, making the pub white; however, the sign on the pub looks very much as it did in Whistler's etching. 14 Yet another view, from the balcony of the 'Adam and Eve' looking towards Cheyne Walk, was drawn shakily in pen and ink by Greaves after a few pints. 15

10: Dave Walker, 'The famous fish shop', The Library Time Machine, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea at http:/ /rbkclocalstudies. 2011/10/20/ the-famous-fish-shop (accessed 2012).

11: Dave Walker, 'Hard times: working in riverside Chelsea', in The Library Time Machine, op. cit..

12: Museum of New Zealand, Wellington [Te Papa Tongarewa], 1969-0020-10, online collections at http://www. (accessed 2012).

13: Government Art Collection, Acc. No. 13551, at and Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, at http://bridgemanart (accessed 2012); Manchester Art Gallery, 1922.8.

14: Grosvenor Prints website (accessed 2012); also V&A E.261-1949.

15: http:// /painting/ greaves /drawings/6.html (accessed 2012)


Impression: K1910417
Many years later Whistler defended the etching and its place in his oeuvre, comparing it with an impression of The Traghetto [233], probably that reproduced above, which was owned in the 1890s by Joseph Pennell (1860-1926). Pennell commented :
'the Adam and Eve, Old Chelsea, and the Traghetto were, as they are now, hanging almost side by side on our walls. In a five minute's demonstration [Whistler] proved one to be but the outgrowth of the other'. 16

16: Pennell 1908, vol. 1, p. 280.