The Young Tree

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 285
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 133 x 95 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 5
Catalogues: K.296; M.291
Impressions taken from this plate  (5)


It was not published but is considered one of the 'Grey's Inn Set'.


Octave Maus (1856-1919) asked Whistler to send some etchings of Brussels to the exhibition of the Société des XX in 1888. On 27 January Whistler wrote to Maus, 'My etchings of Bruxelles are not yet ready - so I send you some new ones of London -' 10 These included The Young Tree.

10: GUW #09242.

It was probably the same impression that was exhibited in the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1888. 11 An article (possibly suggested by the artist) commented that Whistler was the star of the show, with Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) and Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) as the chorus:

11: Paris D-Ruel 1888; see REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

'Whistler as hero, and Caillebotte, Renoir, and other minor lights as repoussoirs. Whistler exhibits a portrait, a few delicate nocturnes, and a selection of etchings of the Naval Review, of shops in London, of children in Gray's Inn Gardens, and of street scenes in Brussels and Bruges - very wonderful works and most exquisite visions of things, observed with extraordinary analytical sureness, and rendered by a hand for which drawing has no secrets. Strange to say there is a tree represented in one of these etchings, a very young and slender tree, quite modest and unpretentious, and unlike the trees that the vulgar landscapists depict. But a tree in Whistler's work! Why this concession to Nature? The master is understood to have excused himself to a Parisian critic by pleading the youth and tender elegance of his tree adding that "à cet âge on peut les tolérer"' (at that age, they can be tolerated).' 12

12: Theoc, 'Gossip from Paris,' World, 30 May 1888, p. 22; see Whistler to M. C. Salaman, [14 June 1888], GUW #10947.

Impressions were also shown, after Whistler's death, at the principal Memorial Exhibitions including the Grolier Club, New York in 1904 and the London Memorial Exhibition in 1905. 13

13: New York 1904a (cat. no. 305); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 284).


Whistler was both exhibiting and selling this etching in 1888. He sold impressions of 'The Young Tree' to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York on 3 May and to Roland F. Knoedler (1856-1932) on 27 July 1888 for £6.6.0. 14

14: GUW #13051, #13660.

Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression from Wunderlich's in 1903 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2960102). He bequeathed it to the Freer Gallery of Art in 1919. Another delicate impression in black ink was bequeathed by Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) to the University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor (Graphic with a link to impression #K2960106).