The Temple

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 245
Date: 1880/1881
Medium: etching
Size: 102 x 154 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 25
Catalogues: K.234; M.231; W.170
Impressions taken from this plate  (25)


The Temple 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.


It was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society, London, in 1883. In the catalogue written by Whistler, 'Temple' was accompanied by a short sentence from the London Times: 'The work does not feel much.' 9 This was the paraphrase of an excerpt from a much longer review, and was intended - by the Times - to be complimentary. The full review ended as follows:

9: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 15).

'The quality of these etchings, taken as a whole, which will most surprise the outside public, who are accustomed to think of Mr Whistler chiefly through the somewhat indefinite pictures in oil which he has exhibited of late years, will be the excessive skill of the drawing, even when it is most free. Look, for instance of this, at the windows and the moored gondolas in the etching entitled "The Palaces" 10 and at the drawing of the details of grated windows and shattered masonry which occur over and over again in this series. The quality which attracts us the most, and which is the one that that in our opinion separates the series from others of like kind, is the thorough vivacity and individuality of the work. It does not feel much, but it sees everything, and what it does not feel[,] to that it does not pretend. Such as it is, the work, besides being skilful, is undoubtedly genuine and original, and this sufficiently accounts for its charm as well as expresses its merit.' 11

10: The Palaces [223].

11: 'Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice', The Times, London, 25 December 1880, p. 4; our italics mark the phrase selected by Whistler.

It is not entirely clear why Whistler chose to add (and misrepresent) this phrase in commenting on a very straightforward and simple composition, unless it was to emphasize that 'feel' was irrelevant. Reviews of the F.A.S. show in 1883 included the Globe, which commented:
'Some etchings of English subjects executed very many years ago are among the most attractive features of the exhibition. "Alderney Street," the very small study "Temple" and the picturesque interior "The Smithy" are remarkable among them for their firm and expressive draughtsmanship, their suggestiveness and simplicity of style'. 12

12: Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Etchings', Globe, 19 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/19).

Impressions of the etching appeared later in several print dealers' shows, including H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York (1883, 1898, 1903), F. Keppel & Co., also in New York (1902), and Obach & Co. in London in 1903. An impression was shown at the New York Etching Club show at the National Academy of Design in 1889. Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent one to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340103), as did Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340105), and James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) lent one to the Glasgow International of 1901. 13

13: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 150 and 150a); Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 211); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

After Whistler's death impressions were shown in the comprehensive Memorial Exhibitions, including the Grolier Club in 1904. Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 14

14: New York 1904a (cat. no. 172); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 170).


Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau sold most impressions, except for 'printer's proofs' kept by the artist. Messrs Dowdeswell gave one impression to the British Museum in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340108). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression from Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340105). Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) sold a set to Wunderlich's in 1888, and they sold it to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340109).
An impression sold from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 265), was bought by Keppel for the ridiculously low sum of £0.15.0. Sales at auction were little better at Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 169) when one was bought by Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) for £1.3.0. To set these prices in context, a whole set, 'in a folio' from the collection of the late Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot, was sold at Christie’s, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) and bought by Colnaghi's for £82.0.0.
Other early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340119); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340107); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340111); Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935) and Charles C. Cunningham (1910-1979) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340116); Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340113); Hans Velten (1857?-1930) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340120). The Art Institute of Chicago benefitted from the combined efforts of several collectors: Jules Gerbeau (d. 1906) and Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340102); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340103); and Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340202, Graphic with a link to impression #K2340203). One impression was inherited from the artist and was bequeathed by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K2340106).