Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 240
Date: 1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 127 x 177 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left, faint butterfly upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 9
Known impressions: 29
Catalogues: K.233; M.230; W.162
Impressions taken from this plate  (29)


Wheelwright 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. 6

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


Wheelwright was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society in 1883 and in the reprise of the show by H. Wunderlich & Co., in New York in the same year. Wheelwright was a complex composition, with vigorous, active figures and bold chiaroscuro - the most elaborate of his London subjects. In the F.A.S. catalogue, written and designed by Whistler, Wheelwright was twinned with a quotation from the St James's Gazette: 'Their charm depends not at all upon the technical qualities so striking in his earlier work.' 7

7: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 3).

Whistler had cut out the more favourable parts of this review. The full sentence published in the St James's Gazette actually read: 'Their charm depends not at all upon the technical qualities so striking in his earlier work, but upon their unity and simplicity of expression.' 8 Whistler's shortened quotation was perhaps intended to draw attention to the technical qualities of this etching.

8: 'Mr Whistler's Venice', St James' Gazette, 9 December 1880 (GUL, PC15/13).

In, 1883 critics appear to have liked the Wheelwright. The Saturday Review found it 'full of life and go, and in this for the first time, one gets a notion of Mr. Whistler's remarkable power of dealing with distnce as one looks to the back of the wheelwright's shop.' 9 The St James Gazette singled Wheelwright and The Smithy [239] among 'six or seven .. which would bear comparison, even from the illustrative standpoint, with the best of his works in black-and-white ... The assured draughtsmanship and the unrivalled power of suggesting what is not given in so many lines, which distinguished Mr. Whistler's earlier works, are both conspicuous in these two plates.' 10

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

10: Anon., St James Gazette, 20 February 1883 (GUL PC25/30, PC7/31).

It was exhibited comparatively rarely after this. It was shown in the print galleries of H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 and twice in 1903, at Obach & Co. in London in 1903 and with Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in New York in 1904. An impression was lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) to the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901. 11

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and at the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905, the latter lent by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934). 12

11: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 231); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

12: New York 1904a (cat. no. 164 ); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 162).


Most impressions were sold through the publishers, Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau, from 1886 on. They gave a complete set to the British Museum in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330506).
Thibaudeau sold a set for £52.10.0 through Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) to H. Wunderlich & Co. in May 1888, and it was bought by Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330508). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought a set from F. Keppel & Co. in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330504), and one impression from the London lithographic printer, Thomas Way (1837-1915) in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2010503).
A few impressions were sold at auction. One was sold at Christie’s in London in 1888 for £1.16.0. 13 Another, from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), was bought at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 257) by the London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for £1.10.0. A complete set 'in a folio' from the collection of the late Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot, was bought by Colnaghi's for £82.0.0 at Christie’s. 14

13: 27 November 1888 (lot 161) bought by 'Fawcitt'.

14: Christies, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316).

Whistler himself sold an impression - probably a proof - to the Fine Art Society, London, on 18 April 1893 for £8.8.0. 15 In 1901 he sold one to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York for the same price. 16

Early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2010501); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330505); Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330515); John Henry Wrenn (1841-1911), probably bought from Wunderlich's (Graphic with a link to impression #K2010502); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330509); Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330514) and Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2330601).

15: GUW #01259.

16: Wunderlich & Co. to Whistler, 16 April 1901, GUW #07330.