The Little Putney

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 187
Date: 1879
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 124 x 201 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right (2-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 23
Catalogues: K.180; M.177; W.226
Impressions taken from this plate  (23)


According to Mansfield: 'In the left lower corner: "The Little Putney," apparently added by another hand than Whistler's. Mr Wedmore says that the plate was etched for the French publication "L'Art"; but it was not published in "L'Art."' 8

8: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 177).

It is possible that publication was planned by T. McLean & Son, possibly in collaboration with Colnaghi's. A report in the Art Journal in 1879 reads:
MR WHISTLER, whatever may be thought and said of his paintings, is a good etcher; his indifference to subject is not evident in that branch of the art. Some of his bits produced by the needle will rank high among examples of the class. We have before us three specimens, published by Mr McLean; they are views of the Thames about Mortlake, and have evidently been done in the boat in which he was sitting to take them. They supply, however, proofs of his heedlessness, for, as he has not taken the trouble to reverse the sketches, the several objects depicted are all on the wrong side of the river. Such eccentricities are to be deplored, the more especially as they seem and we do not doubt, are deliberate. It is to be hoped that Mr. Whistler, as he grows older, will become wiser, and learn that genius is not necessarily shown by affectation. 9

9: Art Journal, 1879, p. 99.

One etching intended for publication by McLean was certainly Hurlingham [184]; it is likely this was another.


At the suggestion of Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), The Little Putney was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 10 Two states of this etching (with and without the butterfly) were shown in the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800206, Graphic with a link to impression #K1800101) and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800206). 11 Mansfield then lent it to at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902. Another impression was shown by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1903 as 'Putney: Number Three'. 12

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown in several big Memorial Exhibitions, including the Copley Society's show in Boston and the Grolier Club's show in New York in 1904. Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 13

10: Mansfield to Whistler, 10 January 1893, GUW #04000. Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2242).

11: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 196, 196a).

12: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [226]); New York 1903b (cat. no. 178).

13: New York 1904a (cat. no. 238); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 115); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 226 or 278)


Given the similarity of title it is difficult to tell when Whistler was printing and selling Little Putney Bridge [186] or The Little Putney.
Collectors who acquired first states of The Little Putney include Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who may have bought it in 1879 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800101), and Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), who bought one in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800102).
Purchasers of the second state include George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (e.g. Graphic with a link to impression #K1800204) and Francis Bullard (1862-1913) (e.g. Graphic with a link to impression #K1800207), and of the third state, Freer, who bought it in 1906 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800303) and the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, which bought one in 1908 from Colnaghi & Co. in London for £12.0.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1800306).