Islands: Evening

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 204
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: drypoint
Size: 128 x 205 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 5
Catalogues: K.222; M.219; W.193
Impressions taken from this plate  (5)


Islands: Evening was not published.


A rare drypoint, and rarely exhibited, it was first shown at the Fine Art Society in London in 1883. In the catalogue, designed by Whistler, the entry for this drypoint was twinned with a brief excerpt from an earlier review by Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921): 'An artist who has never mastered the subtleties of accurate form.'. 6 This was followed by marginal notes by Whistler:

6: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 25).

'Elsewhere Mr. Wedmore is inspired to say—
"The true collector must gradually and painfully acquire the eye to judge of the impression."
REFLECTION: This is possibly the process through which the preacher is passing.' 7

7: ibid.

A critic noted that Islands: Evening - exhibited under the title 'Islands' - was hung with two other drypoints in a conspicuous position: 'At the fireplace are three slight studies; in the centre, "The Little Lagoon" ... and, on either hand, "Islands"... and "Nocturne Shipping". 8 It was also shown in the reprise of the F.A.S. show by H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, in 1883. 9

After this it was hardly ever exhibited, until after Whistler's death. In New York, an impression was on view at Wunderlich's in 1903 and two impressions were shown at the Grolier Club in the following year. Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial show in Boston in 1904 (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K2220z01) and Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935) lent one to the Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 10

8: Anon., 'An Arrangement in White and Yellow', The Queen, 24 February 1883.


10: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 195, 195b); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 149); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 193).


The first sale recorded was on 9 August 1882 when Whistler sold an impression to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), for £4.4.0. 11 Some sales records have obviously not survived. There is no record of the early provenance of the '1st proof', for instance, before 1927 when it was acquired from the estate of Robert Forsyth by the Art Institute of Chicago (Graphic with a link to impression #K2220102), nor of a final state, a fine impression with soft tone, now in Colby College, Maine (Graphic with a link to impression #K2220204).

11: GUW #12990.

One impression of the drypoint is listed on the back of a letter from Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) in 1886 but Whistler's note is probably unconnected with Wilde's letter, and it is not clear to whom it was being sold. 12 The next recorded sale was on 28 April 1887 when Whistler sold two impressions to Messrs Dowdeswell for £6.6.0 each. 13 Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) owned an impression of the second state that was signed by Whistler about 1886 or 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2220101), and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) owned a third state, also possibly signed in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2220z01). These could well have been the Dowdeswell impressions, but they could have been acquired at a later date - Mansfield certainly owned one by 1904 when he lent it to an exhibition in Boston.

One impression was acquired by Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) and sold, after his death, at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 289) where it was bought by the print dealer Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) for £1.8.0. This has not been located, nor has an impression that was lent by Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935) to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. However, it is possible that it was the final state impression bought from Obach & Co. in 1905 by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2220202).

12: [20 April 1886], GUW #07059.

13: GUW #13020.