Merton Villa, Chelsea

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 381
Date: 1888
Medium: etching
Size: 153 x 230 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: 'to Trix - / Merton Villa / Chelsea' at lower left
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 2
Catalogues: K.277; M.273
Impressions taken from this plate  (2)


building, garden, house, landscape, tree, villa, woman standing.


Variations on the title are as follows:

'Merton Villa / Chelsea' (1887, Whistler). 2
'Merton Villa' (1888, Whistler). 3
'Merton Villa - Chelsea. To Trix' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 4
'Merton Villa, Chelsea' (1902, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 5

'Merton Villa, Chelsea' is thus the original and generally recognised title.

2: Etched on copper plate.

3: Whistler to Wunderlich's, 29 June 1888, GUW #13052.

4: List, 1890/1892, GUW #12715).

5: Kennedy 1902 (cat. no. 298).


In the foreground are lawns and shrubs. A woman, bending forward slightly, stands near the shrubbery at the right. In the middle distance are several taller trees in front of a long two-storey house, which has some attic rooms sticking out of the low pitched roof. At right there is a suggestion of another house or wall.


Comparative image
John Birnie Philip and Family
Photograph, 1870s.
Whistler Collection, Special Collections, Glasgow University Library.
Photo©Glasgow University Library.
Merton Villa, Chelsea, London. It was at the end of Manresa Road, off the Kings Road (opposite 278 Kings Road). In 1870 Whistler had hoped to rent or buy Merton Villa, as he told James Anderson Rose (1819-1890):
'There is a house and ground off the Kings Road Chelsea that I am anxious to take at once - ... Merton Villa - opposite the Anchor Brewery Stores, 278A. Kings Road Chelsea - ...The terms are stated at £130 per annum on a 38.1/2 years lease - or £1500. down for 38.1/2 years, with no ground rent -
The garden or grounds cover an acre and a half -' 6

6: Whistler to Rose, 17 July [1870], GUW #11969; see also #10728, #12215.

Whistler tried to buy the lease, asking Rose, 'do you think of making him an offer? and if so of how much? 1000 - or 1200? ... can you tell me of any one that would advance the money? In short I want to buy the place - pay the interest - and the principle by degrees - ' 7

7: 23 July [1870], GUW #10728.

Whistler planned to build a studio in its extensive grounds but hoped for a reduced price 'in the present uncertain state of the effects of War' - that is, the Franco-Prussian War. 8 However, Rose was unable to negotiate a suitable price and Whistler remained at Lindsey Row until June 1878.

8: A. M. Whistler to J. A. Rose, 28 July [1870], GUW #12215.

Whistler came to know the house well, as the home of John Birnie Philip (1824-1875) (who had a studio there) and of his wife Frances Philip (1824-1917) and their family, including Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896) before her marriage to Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) in 1876. Indeed, Beatrice may be the woman seen in Whistler's etching.


Only two of Whistler's etchings were dedicated on the copper plate: Auguste Delâtre, Printer [28], which was dedicated to Mme Delâtre, and this one, dedicated to Whistler's future wife Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896). Beatrice herself was an artist, and drew birds, flowers and trees in the gardens of Merton Villa. 9

9: See Glasgow 1997.