Drury Lane

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 243
Date: 1880/1881
Medium: etching
Size: 164 x 103 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 26
Catalogues: K.237; M.234; W.176
Impressions taken from this plate  (26)


Drury Lane 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, invoice 16 July 1887, GUW #00891.


Drury Lane was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society, London, in 1883. In the catalogue written by Whistler, Drury Lane was accompanied by a sentence from The Athenaeum: 'In Mr Whistler's productions one might safely say that there is no culture.' 7 This was from a review of the Dudley Gallery that Whistler had kept in his press-cuttings for eleven years! The review had compared the work of George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), 'an inheritance of the highest culture working on a refined and imaginative intellect,' and Whistler, 'an artistic inspiration of a purely technical kind' producing 'marvellously subtle symphonies of colour'. 8

In 1883 The Queen described it as 'a curious vista view, seen through a gateway, of the dirty, dismal, but not unpicturesque-looking houses of Drury-lane.' 9 Another reviewer thought the figures of children 'slightly indicated' but also commented on the 'picturesque' nature of the otherwise 'dreary purlieus of Drury Lane'. 10

Some years later, Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370102). 11 In the following year, 1901, James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) lent one from his complete 'Venice Set' to the International Exhibition in Glasgow.

7: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 31).

8: Anon., 'The Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery', The Athenaeum, No. 2349, 2 November 1872 (GUL PC1/57).

9: Anon., 'The Studio. An Arrangement in White and Yellow', The Queen, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/24).

10: Anon., 'The Fine Art Society, New Bond Street', [unidentified 'Daily'], 24 February 1883 (GUL PC6/42).

11: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 156).

Impressions were also exhibited by the print dealers: in New York, for instance, by H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 and 1903, and in London by Obach & Co., in 1903. 12


After Whistler's death, an impression was exhibited at the Grolier Club in 1904, and Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 13

13: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 176).


Messrs Dowdeswell gave an impression of Drury Lane to the British Museum in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370107). This was good publicity for the newly published 'Second Venice Set'. Most sets were sold by Dowdeswell's. Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), for instance, probably bought one direct from Dowdeswell's (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370102). Sometimes sales were made through an intermediary, another dealer such as Frederick Keppel (1845-1912). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), for example, bought one from F. Keppel & Co. as early as 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370103).
On 20 April 1903 - not long before Whistler's death, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) bought an impression for £6.6.0; this was the only one recorded as sold directly by Whistler. 14

At auction in 1888 an impression was sold for only £1.2.0, and at the posthumous Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) sale in 1892 another fetched £1.15.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370118). 15 This was quite low, considering that a complete 'Venice, Second Series', 'in a folio', owned by Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot was bought by Colnaghi's in 1897 for £82.0.0. 16

Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) 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 #K2370106). Other early American collectors included George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370104); Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370120; and Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2370108).

14: GUW #13041.

15: Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 175) bought by 'McGrath'; Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 271) by 'Helbridge'.

16: Christie’s 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316).