The Steps, Gray's Inn

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 282
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 67 x 179 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 7
Catalogues: K.295; M.290
Impressions taken from this plate  (7)


It was never published, but is considered part of the 'Grey's Inn Set'.


It was first exhibited by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898, and it was probably this impression that was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), who then lent it to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2950102). 8

Impressions were also shown in the comprehensive Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904 and in London in the following year. 9

8: New York 1898 (cat. no. 200); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 250); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

9: New York 1904a (cat. no. 304); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 283).


Whistler sold an etching with the title 'Steps' to the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) on 17 November 1887 for £5.5.0, but this could possibly have been Little Steps, Chelsea [269]. 10

He definitely sold an impression as 'Steps Gray's Inn' to H. Wunderlich & Co. on 29 June 1888 for £6.6.0. 11 It was bought immediately, on 30 July 1889, by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2950102). The price remained at £6.6.0 thereafter, and Whistler sold a second impression in 1901 to Wunderlich's at that price. 12 Whistler had also sold one on 18 December 1888 to the Fine Art Society, London. 13

One impression was owned at various times by Alice C. Holden (m. 1889) and Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) before being acquired by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art (Graphic with a link to impression #K2950104).

10: GUW #13016.

11: GUW #13052.

12: Wunderlich's to Whistler, 16 April 1901, GUW #07330.

13: GUW #12999.

At the request of Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), who had inherited the copper plate with the artist's estate in 1903, three impressions were printed by Nathaniel Sparks (1880-1956), and two were bequeathed by her to the Hunterian Art Gallery (Graphic with a link to impression #K2950108, Graphic with a link to impression #K2950103).