Lobster Pots - Selsea Bill

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 241
Date: 1880/1881
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 121 x 203 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right
Inscribed: 'Selsea Bill'
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 32
Catalogues: K.235; M.233; W.174
Impressions taken from this plate  (32)


Lobster Pots - Selsea Bill was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau 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, working out at £0.4.4 1/2d per impression. 11

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


Lobster Pots - Selsea Bill was first exhibited with the Fine Art Society in 1883, and in the reprise of the show held by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in the same year. It was the only subject that was definitely neither Venice nor London. In the F.A.S. catalogue designed and written by Whistler he took the opportunity to add to the catalogue entry for Lobster Pots - Selsea Bill, 'So little in them', a comment ruthlessly cut from a harsh review written by Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) years earlier. Hamerton had written that there was 'So little in them, and the visitor, after profound reflection, comes almost to the conxclusion that there can be little in the man who etched them.' 12

12: London FAS 1883 ( 23).

Writing in 1883, H.W. Sweny noted Whistler's use of the earlier review but fell into line behind Hamerton - on the other hand he did appreciate the ironic nature of the catalogue: 'if one could not see the Etchings, the Catalogue was to hand. That catalogue in which Mr. Whistler sits in judgement on his critics is a delightful joke.' 13

13: 'H.W.S.' [Sweny], Venice and Whistler', People, 25 February 1883 (GUL PC6/44).

An impression was lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) to an exhibition held at the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350104). 14 Another was shown at the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901, lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901). 15 Impressions were for sale in print dealers' shows at H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1902, and Obach & Co. in London in 1903, and at the galleries of Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) in New York in 1902 and 1904. 16

After Whistler's death, an impression was shown at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and, lent by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934), at the Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 17

14: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 154).

15: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 211).


17: New York 1904a (cat. no. 176); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 174).


Most impressions were sold by or through the publishers, Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau, in and after 1886. Dowdeswell's gave one to the British Museum in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350307). Thibaudeau sold a set to H. Wunderlich & Co., New York in 1888, which they sold on to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350306). Charles Deering (1852-1927) bought one owned by or from Charles Dowdeswell (1856?-1921) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350302). Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) was another early British collector and Dowdeswell client (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350313).
At Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 173) was bought by Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841) for £1.1.0. Another impression was sold from the Hutchinson collection at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 269) and bought by 'Russell' for only £0.12.0. The whole set fetched considerably more: from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot a 'folio' of the'Venice, Second Series' was sold at Christie’s 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) to the print dealers, Colnaghi's, for £82.0.0.
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an early impression from F. Keppel & Co. in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350102). Freer bought another from Thomas Way (1837-1915) in 1905, which had come from the collection of Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350105). Other early American collectors included George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350103); Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350203); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350102); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350303); and Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2350309) .