The Traghetto, No. 2

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 233
Date: 1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 243 x 307 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (1-3); replaced with a butterfly further up (4-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 9
Known impressions: 60
Catalogues: K.191; M.188; W.156
Impressions taken from this plate  (60)


It was published in Venice, a Series of Twelve Etchings (the 'First Venice Set') by the Fine Art Society, London, in 1880.
In January 1883 the F.A.S. paid Whistler £105.0.0 for the 339 impressions delivered by then (1881-82). 21 In the first half of 1883 Whistler printed 60 impressions of the 'First Venice Set' and other Venice plates at £5.5.0 per dozen. The F.A.S. paid on 9 August 1883. On 15 February 1884 Whistler printed 15 impressions from the 'Venice Set' at £5.5.0 per dozen. 22

21: GUW #01153.

22: GUW #01185.


The Traghetto, No. 2 was first exhibited, as 'The Traghetto', with Venice, a Series of Twelve Etchings (the 'First Venice Set') by the Fine Art Society, London, in 1880. 23 The Globe critic commented 'The two large plates, "The Traghetto" and "The Beggars", each representing a long covered way with picturesque and appropriate figures, as regards beauty of tone and perfect balance of light and shade, could hardly be surpassed.' 24

The 'First Venice Set' was widely exhibited. In 1881 impressions of this etching were shown at the Nationgalerie, Berlin (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910309) and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and, lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), at the Union League Club in New York (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910412). 25

It appeared again at the F.A.S. in 1883 and 1892, as well as at the reprise of the 1883 show by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York. 26 In the F.A.S. catalogue in 1883, Whistler reproduced two short quotations from earlier reviews of his work, to complement The Traghetto, No. 2:

23: London FAS 1880 (cat. no. 11); see EXHIBITION REFERENCES.

24: 'Mr. Whistler's Etchings,' The Globe, London, 3 December 1880 (PC4/15).

25: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 156-167).

26: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 37).

"The artist's present principles seem to deny him any effective chiaroscuro."—P. G. Hamerton.
"Mr. Whistler's figure drawings, generally defective and always incomplete."
Whistler added a grammatical 'REFLECTION' in the margin:
'"Sometimes generally always."'

The artist's choice of reviews was probably intended to emphasize the importance of the subtly textured shadows in the arched passageway, and the vigorous characterisation of the figures. Critics responded with conflicting reviews : the Daily News thought that it 'will be, or should be, admired' but the Saturday Review considered it 'phantom-like and weird'. 27 Bazaar expressed mixed views:

27: 'Mr Whistler's Etchings', Daily News, 20 February 1883; 'Mr Whistler's Exhibition', Saturday Review, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/20, 32).

'Mr Whistler is not happy in his drawing of figures, and they are often obtrusive, though shadowy ..."Traghetto" has a fine effect of light thrown under an arch, and is one of the few that bear the quality of marked light and shade, while the head of one of the figures in the foreground is finished, and his body "suggested" - an incongruity open to no apology.' 28

28: 'Fine Art. Mr. Whistler's Exhibition,' Bazaar, 28 February 1883 (GUL PC6/44).

Impressions were then shown on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1892 an impression was shown at the Salon in Paris. One was lent by John Caldwell (fl. 1887-1907), Pittsburgh, to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 29 The cancelled plate was exhibited with a 'trial proof' priced at £12.12.0 and a 'finished state' priced at £8.8.0 by the London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) in Liverpool in 1893. 30 Another impression, owned by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), was shown in the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910315). 31 Impressions were also shown in the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901 and, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902. 32

Several print dealers exhibited the etching. H. Wunderlich & Co. exhibited impressions in 1898 and 1903, as did Obach & Co. in London in 1903 and F. Keppel & Co. in New York in 1904.

29: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2238).

30: Liverpool 1893 (cat. nos. 1-3).

31: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 137a).

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

Finally impressions were shown at the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions, in 1904 at the Grolier Club, New York, and, lent by Frank Lusk Babbott (1854-1903), in Boston in the same year, and in Paris and London in 1905. King Edward VII lent his impression to the latter show. 33

33: New York 1904a (cat. no. 158); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 124); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 156 or 368).


Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), who was an observer of the development of The Traghetto, No. 2, acquired an early impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910102), as did Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who had one by 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910412). Other early collectors included J.L Claghorn (d. 1882) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910306).
Most impressions were sold by the Fine Art Society. The F.A.S. sold directly to both clients and other dealers. Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892), possibly on commission from the F.A.S., sold 'Der Thorweg' to the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin in 1882. (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910309). 34 H. Wunderlich & Co. sold a set to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910308).

An early collector was Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), and after his death, a 'trial proof' was sold at auction at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 245) to Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst for £4.4.0; it probably went from him to Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924), and to H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1903 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910204). At the same sale one described as the 'finished plate' was bought by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) for £5.5.0 (lot 246).

34: Inventory books, Kupferstichkabinett Berlin.

Although they were still being sold by the F.A.S. Whistler had firm ideas on which collector should have which impression. He told Marcus Bourne Huish (1843-1904):
'You will see that I have marked for Mr Mansfield. 1. "Palaces" - 1 "Doorway" 1. "Traghetto". 1. "Beggars". 1. "Two Doorways". For Mr E. G. Kennedy . 2. "Doorway". 2. "Beggars". 1. "Two Doorways". 2. "Traghettos"./ Mr Browne knows where on the back to look for these delicate signs - together with others signifying choice - There are one or two marked Ex. for you to frame and show - ' 35

35: [February/August 1892], GUW #02968.

Unfortunately Mansfield's impressions of The Traghetto, No. 2 have not been identified, and Freer's do not now bear any particular marks. On the other hand, one impression of The Traghetto, No. 2 does bear the note 'Ex-' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910317). Furthermore, several impressions of the eighth and final state bear 'delicate signs', as follows:
'8x -' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910505)
B. M. / ooo' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910513)
'o' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910514)
These cryptic coded notes are probably part of Whistler's selection process. 'B.M.' could be Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) or the British Museum and 'o' may be a mark of quality.
Despite this careful marketing, The Traghetto, No. 2 did not sell very well, and in October 1892 the F.A.S. still had 52 impressions for sale at £8.8.0 each. 36 However, they asked Whistler for a 'trial proof' presumably to satisfy a particular client, and on 7 April 1893 they paid the artist £10.10.0 for this 'trial proof'. 37

Five years later, in 1898, Whistler sold an impression to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York for £12.12.0. 38 This may have been bought from Wunderlich's by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910403). Wunderlich's sold another in 1899 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910320). They sold yet another to Tracy Dows (1871-1937) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910502) and possibly one to Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), who certainly had it by 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910315). Freer also bought one from Thomas Way (1837-1915) in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910402) and a cancelled impression from F. Keppel & Co. in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1910701).

Finally Whistler sold an impression on 24 December 1902 to the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for the comparatively high price of £31.10.0. 39

36: E.G. Brown to Whistler, 21 October 1892, GUW #01257.

37: GUW #01258.

38: Wunderlich's to Whistler, 24 March 1899, GUW #07305.

39: GUW #13040.