The Fleet: Monitors

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 306
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 143 x 223 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.318; M.315; W.239
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


Although not published officially, The Fleet: Monitors formed part of the 'Jubilee Set'.


This may first have been exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists in the winter of 1887-1888, towards the conclusion of Whistler's Presidency of the Society. The London Standard commented:
'Mr Whistler's latest studies with the etching needle divide themselves as to theme into four classes, one of them dealing with a pilastered house in Brussels, another with what Mr Whistler saw when he was a privileged spectator of her Majesty's fleet, a fourth with the arena of Buffalo Bill. Of all of these things there are vivacious and dexterous jottings.' 12

12: London RBA 1887-8 (cat. no. 525). '"Black and White" Exhibition', Standard, London, 25 December 1887 (GUL PC9/47).

It was shown in two print exhibitions by the print dealers H. Wunderlich & Co., in New York in 1898 and 1903. 13

After Whistler's death, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent an impression to the Boston Memorial show in 1904. In addition, an impression from the 'Naval Review Set' presented by Whistler to Queen Victoria was lent by Edward VII to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London 1905. 14

13: New York 1898 (cat. no. 222); New York 1903b (cat. no. 188).

14: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 174); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 239).


The first sale, less than a month after drawing The Fleet: Monitors, was on 20 August 1887 to the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) for £10.10.0. Another went to Messrs Dowdeswell in London for the same price. In December, Whistler sent two whole Naval Review sets to J. Craibe Angus (fl. 1865-1901) in Glasgow. 15 One of these was probably bought by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180115), and was sold later through Wunderlich's, being owned by Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), and Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951), from whom it passed to Boston Public Library.

15: GUW #13089; [September 1887/1888], #08679; 16 December 1887, #10959.

An impression from the Album presented by Whistler to Queen Victoria was sold on 11 April 1906 through Obach & Co. to Freer, who already had a good impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180104). Freer immediately sold the Album to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), who gave it to the University of Glasgow in 1935 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180107). 16 A similar set in an album designed by Whistler was given by Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) to the Art Institute of Chicago (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180103). Freer had already bought an impression from H. Wunderlich & Co in May 1888 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180104).

Several print dealers bought regularly from Whistler. Wunderlich's had an impression by May 1888, which was probably the one sold to Freer, and Knoedler's by July 1888. 17 Ten years later, more sales were recorded to Wunderlich's, priced at £10.10.0, and they were keen to obtain more impressions as late as 1903, shortly before Whistler's death. 18

Five impressions were left in Whistler's studio at his death and bequeathed to his sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), who bequeathed them to the University of Glasgow. Two of these were sold, leaving three still in the Hunterian (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180110, Graphic with a link to impression #K3180202, Graphic with a link to impression #K3180105).

16: Freer sale records, 11 April, 3 May and 20 June 1906, FGA; see also Freer's account, [4 September 1902], GUW #11701.

17: 3 May 1888, GUW #07158, #13051; 27 July 1888, #13660.

18: 24 March 1899, GUW #07305; 6 April 1900, #07322; D. A. Kennedy to Whistler, 27 March 1903, #07340.

Whistler had a circle of avid collectors who bought his work, and fine impressions passed from one to another of these collectors as time went on. Other early collectors included Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) and Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937) (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180114); Ralph King (1855-1926) and his wife (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180112), Miss Elizabeth Achelis (1880-1973) (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180113); Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180z01, Graphic with a link to impression #K3180111); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180102); and Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) (Graphic with a link to impression #K3180106).