Lagoon - Noon

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 209
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 127 x 204 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (3-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 30
Catalogues: K.216; M.213; W.186
Impressions taken from this plate  (30)


Lagoon: Noon 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. 8

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


Lagoon: Noon was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society, London in 1883 and at the reprise of that show by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in the same year, before being published in the 'Second Venice Set', by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau in 1886. In the catalogue designed by Whistler for the 1883 show he added short excerpts from earlier reviews that provided ironical contrasts or complements to the prints on show. In this case, it was the final work in the show and so was followed by comments that may have been meant to complement this etching, merging with comments relating to Whistler's work in general. The quotations were taken from earlier reviews by Sidney Colvin (1845-1927), Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921) and Henry Quilter (1851-1907), and were punctuated by 'Reflections' by Whistler, signed with a butterfly with long barbed tail:
'"Years ago James Whistler was a person of high promise."—F. Wedmore.
"What the art of Mr. Whistler yields is a tertium quid." Sidney Colvin.
REFLECTION: The quid of sweet and bitter fancy.
"As we have hinted, the series does not represent any Venice that we much care to remember; for who wants to remember the degradation of what has been noble, the foulness of what has been fair?" 'Arry in the "Times."
'REFLECTION: The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them because he knoweth not how to go to the City. '

9: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 51).

The quotation that was, according to Whistler, by 'Arry in the "Times." actually came from Whistler's press-cutting books, where it was identified as from the 1880 review of the 'First Venice Set' in the Spectator. 10 It was definitely not the Times review of the same show, although that did express similar sentiments about Whistler's representation of the 'degradation' rather than the beauty of Venice. 11

Frequently the earlier reviews reprinted in the 1883 catalogue attracted more attention from the journalists of 1883 than the works themselves, and Lagoon: Noon, being towards the end of the show, attracted no other attention at all. After repeating Wedmore's acid comment, the Sunday Times, however, added 'One thing is certain, Mr. Whistler has achieved that popularity which is seldom accorded to failures, and is able to stand without aid, proffered or otherwise.' 12

Finally, having stabbed his foes, the critics, with an assortment of quotations, Whistler turned to the business of printing his etchings, and did not actually exhibit them very much after this. He concentrated on selling, and it was his patrons who organised some exhibitions of the prints.

10: Anon. [H.Quilter], 'Mr.Whistler's "Venice" at the Fine-Art Society, New Bond Street', Spectator, vol. 53, no. 2737, 11 December 1880, pp. 1586-7 (GUL PC4/13, 4/82).

11: 'Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice', Times, London, 25 December 1880, p. 4.

12: Sunday Times, 18 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/22).

For instance, impressions were lent by both Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160302) and Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160303), to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900. 13 An impression was also shown at the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901 (lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901)) which was largely organised by artists and collectors.

13: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 166, 166a).

Print dealers who exhibited impressions of Lagoon: Noon included H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1883, 1898, and 1903 (twice), Obach & Co., also in 1903, and Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in 1902 and 1904. 14


After Whistler's death, impressions were shown in Memorial Exhibitions in Boston, organised by the Copley Society, and lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), in 1904; at the Grolier Club, New York, also in 1904; and in Paris and - lent by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) - in London in 1905. 15

15: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 146); New York 1904a (cat. no. 188); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 186).


Whistler sold an impression of Lagoon: Noon on 28 August 1882 to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) for £4.4.0. 16 After publication most impressions were sold by the publishers, Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau, or by them through other dealers to collectors. Dowdeswell's even gave a set to the British Museum in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160306). F. Keppel & Co. sold an impression to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160303). Thibaudeau sold a set in 1888 through H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, which was bought by Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160308).

16: GUW #13643

However, years later, Whistler sold an impression in September 1897 to H. Wunderlich & Co. for £6.6.0. 17 This may have been the impression acquired by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (stock no. a 28976) who owned it by 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160302). Other American collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160301); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160304) and Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160z01).

Shortly before his death, the artist sold an impression on 20 April 1903 to another London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for a comparatively high price - £10.10.0. 18 Whistler also bequeathed one to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) from whom it passed to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K2160z05).

17: Wunderlich's to Whistler, GUW #07287.

18: 20 April 1903, GUW #13041.

At auction prices for single impressions were much lower. A single impression was sold from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 281) and bought by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) for only £1.2.0. 19 The whole set, however, fetched a substantial amount. One set 'in a folio' was sold from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot at Christie’s, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) to Colnaghi's for £82.0.0.

19: Also Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 185) bought by 'McGrath', £2.2.0.