The Balcony

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 202
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 298 x 203 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 19
Known impressions: 56
Catalogues: K.207; M.204; W.177
Impressions taken from this plate  (56)


The Balcony was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) with A Set of twenty-six etchings of Venice (the 'Second Venice Set') in 1886. Messrs Dowdeswell gave one of these sets to the British Museum in 1887 (see Graphic with a link to impression #K2070803).

Whistler delivered in all 1093 prints and was paid £2.10.6 for printing each dozen prints, working out at £0.4.4 1/2d per impression. 17

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


The Balcony was first shown in the Fine Art Society, London in 1883, with the probably entirely imaginary quotation appended to the catalogue entry: '"His colour is subversive" - Russian Press.' 18

Reviews of the 1883 show were mainly complimentary. In contrast with The Two Doorways [221], Bazaar described it as 'of another and lighter style, but essentially good.' The Queen considered it 'good both in tone and line.' 19 In contrast with Nocturne [222], another critic wrote: 'the rich velvety quality of the lattice over the door is very delightful, while the delicately suggested figure, and the dark coloured water beneath, make a very strong picture.' 20 And the Saturday Review, comparing it with a London scene, Alderney Street [246], described it as: 'a work at once broad and delicate, a work in strange contrast to such sketchy scratchy stuff as "Alderney Street", with its phantom horses and cabs and figures.' 21

Later shows included the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, to which one impression was lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924). 22 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) organised a panel including this etching at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent one to the show organised by the Caxton Club, Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071102). 23 James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) lent an impression from a complete set to the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901, and Laurence W. Hodson (1864-1933) lent one to an International in Wolverhampton in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071003). 24

Other impressions appeared in print dealers' shows, at H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1883, 1898 and 1903, and with Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in 1902. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought the impression from Wunderlich's in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070903). 25

After Whistler's death, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent an impression to one of the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions, in Boston in 1904 (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K2070901), and King Edward VII lent another to the London show in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070301). 26

18: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 32).

19: 'An Arrangement in White and Yellow', The Queen, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/24).

20: Unidentified press-cutting, GUL PC4/19.

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

22: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-23)

23: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 157).

24: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 224); Wolverhampton 1902 (cat. no. 141).

25: New York 1898 (cat. no. 156). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

26: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 139); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 177).


In August and September 1882 Whistler sold impressions to Wickham Flower (b. ca 1836), to the print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) and to Queen Victoria at £6.6.0 each. 27

After 1886 most sales would have been through the print publishers Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892), or passed by them to other print dealers. Thibaudeau, for instance, sold a set to Wunderlich's of New York who sold it to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890. (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070805 Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) usually bought his etchings from Dowdeswell (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070902) and his impression later went to Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913).

27: August 1882, GUW #12989; 28 August 1882, #13643; 12 September 1882, #13072.

Other early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070806); Jules Gerbeau (d. 1906), Laurence W. Hodson (1864-1933) and Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071003); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070603); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071104); John Henry Wrenn (1841-1911) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071106); Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070402); Ralph King (1855-1926) and his wife (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070z04). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression from Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070503) and a later impression, originally from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), from Wunderlich's of New York on 9 November 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070903). Königl. Kupferstichkabinett Dresden bought an impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070508) from P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, in 1897.
At auction, prices for individual prints varied considerably. The print dealer Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) bought one at Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 176) for £2.2.0, while Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) paid £6.6.0 for an impression from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 272). In 1894 at the J.M. Gray sale an impression went for a good price, £5.0.0. 28 At auction the etching was sometimes sold in the set. For instance, a set 'in a folio' from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot, was sold at Christie’s, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) for £82.0.0.

28: 'J.M. Gray sale', The Academy, 17 November 1894, p. 405.

After Messrs Dowdeswell undertook to publish the etching, Whistler was not supposed to sell individual impressions, although he could legitimately keep and eventually sell his 'printer's proofs'. Since there were a lot of states, he would have kept quite a lot of such proofs. Two such 'trial proofs' were acquired by Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) or Thomas Way (1837-1915) and sold in 1905 to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070202, Graphic with a link to impression #K2070502).
It is difficult to separate these from sales of similar etchings, however. For instance he sold a 'Balcony ' to the Fine Art Society in 1893 for £6.6.0, but this could be Balcony, Amsterdam [446]. 29

29: E.G. Brown to Whistler, 18 April 1893, #01259.

Whistler definitely sold one to Wunderlich's in 1897 for the very good price of £18.0.0, and one to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), the London print dealer, for £12.12.0 in 1903. 30 There were still four impressions in the studio at his death, and these were given or bequeathed by his executrix Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K2070602, Graphic with a link to impression #K2070704, Graphic with a link to impression #K2070703, Graphic with a link to impression #K2071205), with a cancelled impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K2071203).

30: [June/August 1897], GUW #07288; 20 April 1903, #13041.