Sketch after Cecil Lawson's "Swan and Iris"

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 247
Date: 1882
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 142 x 82 (1); 134 x 82 (2) mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: E. W. Gosse, 'Cecil Lawson, a Memoir', London, 1883
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 32
Catalogues: K.241; M.238
Impressions taken from this plate  (32)


Comparative image
It was published in a large and sumptuous memoir - which rather dwarfed Whistler's etching - Edmund William Gosse (1849-1928), Cecil Lawson: A Memoir, London, The Fine Art Society, 1883. The St James Gazette commented on 13 March 1883 that the volume was 'very imposing from the outside' but was not impressed with Whistler's etching, 'one of the wildest of that gentleman's productions'. 11

11: Press-cutting in GUL PC6/50.

Comparative image
Cecil Lawson: A Memoir, 1883, title page.
Whistler's copy, illustrated above, is inscribed 'J.A.McN.Whistler Esq. / with E.W. Gosse's compliments & best thanks.' The etching was printed on a sheet of paper - in this case a sheet of ivory laid paper measuring 229 x 156mm - and that sheet was tipped down on a page and bound into the book. The book cover measures 461 x 375mm; the pages vary but are slightly smaller. The etching looked rather small and precious in the handsome volume. The size of the supporting sheet varied, as did the size of the volume.


It was first exhibited by H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, in 1898. 12 Later an impression was lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410108). 13

Following Whistler's death, impressions were shown in all the principal Memorial Exhibitions including the Grolier Club, New York and the Copley Society in Boston (lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)) both in 1904, and in the following year in the London Memorial Exhibition, lent by John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908). 14

12: New York 1898 (cat. no. 174); see REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

13: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 314 and 314a).

14: New York 1904a (cat. no. 335); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 210); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 310).


Comparative image
Cecil Lawson: A Memoir, 1883,
Whistler's copy, Glasgow University Library.
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought a copy of the book in 1883 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410203); other early collectors were Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who had an impression of the first state (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410108), as did Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410109). Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) owned a second state (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410202), as did George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410210), and, in England, Henry Nazeby Harrington (1862-1937) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2410z04). An impression owned by Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was sold, after his death, at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 323) and bought by Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) for £1.2.0; it was probably bought from H. Wunderlich & Co. by Sir Edmund Walker, from whose estate it was given to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Whistler recorded two sales to print dealers in London. He sold an impression to Messrs Dowdeswell on 28 April and another to Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) on 17 May 1887 for £5.5.0 each. 15 Then in 1890 the print dealer, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), representing H. Wunderlich & Co., wrote from New York to Whistler:

15: GUW #13020, #13011.

'There is an etching called the "Swan and the Iris" attributed to you, which we have bought. It is a delicate dry point. It is curious that we have not met with it before. Can you give us information regarding it, when it was made, if you printed any impressions yourself &c.?' 16

16: 25 February 1890, GUW #07188. There is no note of a reply from Whistler.