Cottage Door

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 252
Date: 1886
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 68 x 100 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 8
Catalogues: K.250; M.246; W.204
Impressions taken from this plate  (8)


building, children, cottage, door, dress.


There are variations in grammar, but few other changes, as follows:

'Cottage Door' (1887, Whistler). 3
'The Cottage Door' (1887, Whistler). 4
'Cottage Door' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
'Cottage Doorway. Kent' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 6
'Cottage-Door' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 7

Since Miss Birnie Philip was probably wrong in saying this was etched in Kent, the original title of 'Cottage Door' is preferred.

3: Whistler to T. McLean, 17 May 1887, GUW #13011.

4: Whistler to Dowdeswell, 27 July 1887, GUW #08677.

5: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 204).

6: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

7: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 250).


Two girls stand in the shadowed open doorway of a cottage, and a baby crawls on the pavement at their feet. Leaning against the left doorpost is a girl in profile to right, wearing a hat with a ribbon over shoulder-length hair, and an apron over her skirt. To her right is a smaller girl, with a feathered bonnet and frilly dress with a ruff at the neck. She faces the viewer, leaning with one arm out-stretched on the doorpost to right. To right of the door, a girl leans against the wall, with legs crossed. She faces the viewer, wearing a sun bonnet that shades her forehead. To right of her is a window with small rectangular panes.


According to Wedmore, this was sketched in Cumberland, in north-west England. 8 Whistler visited Cumberland in August 1886. 9

He had long-standing family connections in the area - the Picards, whom he visited in Kirby Lonsdale as a child, for example - and other contacts. He visited George Fletcher at Grasmere in 1882, joined William Stott (1857-1900), in Cumberland in August 1886, and Whistler's wife, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896), designed a memorial window to the daughter of Mrs Jane Holme for the parish church at Orton in 1892. 10

Cumbria was a popular tourist destination. Photographs by Francis Frith show, for instance, Waterhead Hotel, Windermere, and Windermere from Biskey Howe, in 1887. The scene etched by Whistler could be a back street in a popular resort in the Lakes, such as Ambleside, Bowness or Kendal, but is more likely to be one of the smaller towns, such as Hawkshead on Esthwaite Water.

8: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 204).

9: Whistler to H. Whistler, [16 August 1886], GUW #06709.

10: See Portrait of John Richard Picard [m0014]; Miss Cumberlege [m0873]; M. F. MacDonald, Beatrice Whistler: Artist and Designer, exh. cat., Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 1997, repr. p. 43.

In July 1886 several publishers produced new editions of their guidebooks, aimed at what the Times called the 'tourist stream ... in full flow', and which included the fourth edition of Dulau & Co.'s English Lake District 'evidently carefully revised'; John Barrow's Mountain Ascents in Westmoreland and Cumberland, and the 21st edition of Black's Guide to the Lakes with the late Professor Sedgeworth's forty-year-old essay on the 'Geology of the Lakes', of which doubtless very little had changed. 11

11: 'New Tourist Publications', The Times, London, 27 July 1886, p. 4.

On the other hand, it is possible that the site is in the south of England, for the copper plate was recorded as 'Cottage Doorway. Kent', possibly by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), who could have been told the location by the artist. 12

12: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.


Whistler and his clientele enjoyed discovering beauty in the poorest of town and country back-streets. Whistler's cataloguers admired the slim and youthful figures. Mansfield described the girl at right as 'A tall slender girl wearing a sun bonnet' and Wedmore considered her 'of particular grace, standing slim, with crossed feet'. 13

13: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 204); Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 246).