Riva, No. 2

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 230
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 211 x 307 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 44
Catalogues: K.206; M.203; W.175
Impressions taken from this plate  (44)


Riva, No. 2 was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) with A Set of Twenty-six Etchings (the 'Second Venice Set') in 1886.

Whistler delivered in all 1093 prints and was paid £2.10.6 for printing each dozen prints. 17

17: Dowdeswell to Whistler, invoice 16 July 1887, GUW #00891.


It was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society galleries in Bond Street, London in 1883. In the exhibition catalogue designed and written by Whistler, he included quotes chosen from earlier reviews to complement his etchings. In the catalogue this etching, with its sharp focus, expressive line and topographical accuracy, was twinned with a comment from the St James's Gazette: 'In all his former Etchings he was careful to give a strong foundation of firm drawing. In these plates, however, he has cast aside this painstaking method.' 18 The full quotation from the St James's Gazette read as follows:

18: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 24).

'In all his former etchings, whether of river-side wharves and barges, old timbered houses, or groups of ouvriers, of Paris and London, he was careful to give a strong foundation of firm drawing to the impressions he strove to convey. In these plates, however, he has cast aside this pains-taking method, and gone direct to the effect which he desired by the shortest and easiest route. He has been content to show us what his eyes can see, and not what his hand can do. They approach, therefore, much nearer to his method on canvas than any that have been seen before.' 19

19: 'Mr. Whistler's Venice', St James' Gazette, 9 December 1880 (GUL Whistler PC4/16).

However, the critic selected Whistler's other view of the Riva degli Schiavoni, The Riva [229], for particular praise, writing:
'The best examples of his earlier work, such as "Black Lion Wharf"... and many others, each contained as striking an impression of a momentary effect or of a prevailing genius loci as we see in the best of these plates, such as "The Riva", "The Doorway," "The Little Venice," or "The Little Lagoon", besides which, they afforded us an opportunity of enjoyment in the technique of the artist, of which we are now deprived. Perhaps the best of the series are the three called respectively "The Riva," "The Doorway," and "The Little Venice," ... The etching is a "bird's-eye view," and must have been taken from some window in the neighbourhood of Daniele's Hotel.' 20

20: ibid., St James' Gazette, 9 December 1880. In fact it was from the Casa Jankowitz.

Reviews of the same etching at the 1883 F.A.S. show were on the whole favourable:
'Of the plates dealing with outdoor subjects, and therefore with Venice as it is known to most foreign visitors, the best are, perhaps, new and greatly improved versions of the "Riva" and of the "Doorway," and a peep towards the Rialto down the narrow vista of the Strada dei Tedeschi. ... the later and better of the two "Rivas", and one or two more are notable for a fine instinct in the arrangement and delineation, not exactly of crowds, but of numerous little figures bustling about their work or idling in the sunshine after the manner of Italy.' 21

21: St James Gazette, 20 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/30).

Likewise, the often disapproving critic of the Saturday Review admired it: '"Riva No. 2" exhibits in a marked degree the artist's power of dealing with atmosphere ... and is full of life, go, and sunlight.' 22

Impression: K2060103

22: Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Exhibition', Saturday Review, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/32).

Other print dealer's exhibitions commenced with those of H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, the first in 1883, based on Whistler's F.A.S. exhibition, followed by one in 1898, when the exhibit (reproduced above) was sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060103), and two further exhibitions in 1903. Other print dealer's shows included Obach & Co. in London in 1903 and F. Keppel & Co. in New York in 1902 and 1904.
It was shown - usually with the rest of the 'Second Venice Set' - in numerous international and major city exhibitions. These included the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, to which an impression was lent by John Caldwell (fl. 1887-1907), and exhibitions at Dresden in 1899, Buffalo in 1901 and Wolverhampton in 1902. 23 Impressions were lent by both Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060202) and Freer (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060103 or Graphic with a link to impression #K2060105) to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900. 24 James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) lent to the Glasgow Internation Exhibition in 1901 and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent to a show in Philadelphia in 1902. 25

After Whistler's death, other impressions were shown at the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions, at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904; at the Copley Society in Boston, also in 1904, lent again by Mansfield; in Paris; in London, lent by King Edward VII, in 1905; and in Rotterdam in 1906, lent by Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935). 26

23: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2244); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

24: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 155, 155a).

25: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 227). Philadelphia 1902 (cat. nos. 947- 175)

26: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 138); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 175); Rotterdam 1906 (cat. no. 86).


The first recorded sale was on 28 August 1882 when Whistler sold an impression to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), for £6.6.0. 27 He sold another on 12 September 1882 to Queen Victoria at the same price (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060121). 28 After it was sold from the Royal Collection in 1906, through H. Wunderlich & Co. and Obach & Co., this impression was bought by Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936).

From 1886 most impressions were sold by Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892). In 1887 they gave a complete 'Second Venice Set' to the British Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060111). Dowdeswell's sold either directly to collectors or through other dealers. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), for instance, bought one from Frederick Keppel & Co. in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060105). Thibaudeau sold one through Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) to H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, in May 1888, as part of an album of the 'Second Venice Set' for £52.10.0 and this was bought by Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060113).

Other early collectors included Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060102), George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060109), Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060127) and Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060202).

27: GUW #13643.

28: GUW #13072.

Although the publishers had exclusive rights for the sale of the published edition, Whistler was free to sell the early 'printer's proofs' of different states, and it was presumably these he was selling in the 1890s. On 18 April 1893 Whistler sold an impression to the Fine Art Society for £6.6.0. 29 Finally he sold one on 20 April 1903 to another London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for £12.12.0. 30 At his death shortly afterwards there were still two in the studio, one early and one cancelled, which were bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) and passed by her to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060106, Graphic with a link to impression #K2060303).

29: FAS to Whistler, GUW #01259.

30: GUW #13041.

Prices at auction varied considerably. In 1888 a 'Riva', which may have been this etching (or possibly The Riva [229]), failed to make its reserve price. 31 However, an impression sold from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was bought by Dunthorne for a good price, £5.15.0, in 1892. 32 For comparison, a complete set, 'Venice, Second Series' 'in a folio' Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot at Christie’s on 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) was bought by Colnaghi's for £82.0.0. At the same sale Lot 303, 'The Riva' - again it is not absolutely certain it was this etching - was bought by Dunthorne for £8.18.6 (with Nocturne, Venice).

31: Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 174).

32: Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 270).

In 1898 P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, sold one impression to the Königl. Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden for £14.14.0, and it was exhibited in Dresden in the following year. Freer was not content with one impression, and bought an impression from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) through Wunderlich's in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060103) and an earlier impression from Obach & Co. in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2060104).