The Market Place, Tours

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 388
Date: 1888
Medium: etching
Size: 271 x 136 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 3
Catalogues: K.374; M.374
Impressions taken from this plate  (3)


cart, fashion, people, market, square, stall, streetscape.


The titles used by Whistler and later cataloguers were not consistent, nor was the grammar and punctuation. Examples are as follows:

'The Market Place Tours (French Plates)' (1888, Whistler). 1
'Market Place Tours' (1889, Whistler). 2
'Market Place - Loches' (1889?, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919)). 3
'Market Place. The. Tours' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 4
'Market Place, Tours' (1902, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 5
'Market-Place, Tours' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

'The Market Place, Tours' is the preferred version of the title, based on the title first used by Whistler. Freer appears to have been incorrect in identifying the scene as Loches. Little Market Place, Tours [389] is a related subject on a smaller copper plate.

1: List, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233.

2: List, 18 July 1889, List, GUW #13235.

3: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K3740102.

4: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

5: Kennedy 1902 (cat. no. 322).

6: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 374).


The corner of a cobbled square, with a street leading off it in the background. Groups of women, some carrying baskets, stand in front of booths on the left, which are shaded by awnings. More women are gathered around a cart at the right. Between the two groups a fashionably dressed lady with a tall feather in her narrow-brimmed hat, strides, arms akimbo, towards the viewer. Beyond the booths at left is a three-storey steep-roofed gabled house with shutters open on the second-storey window. At right, behind the cart, is a two-storey building from which a lantern projects. On the cross-street beyond, a house and two chimneys are visible, and at upper right, part of a church tower.


The French town of Tours was the former capital of Touraine, and was on the left bank of the Loire. Murray's guidebook asserted that 'The town is no longer remarkable for the many objects of curiosity which it possessed before the first revolution, and the charms of its situation, in an unvaried plain, have been greatly overrated.' Furthermore, the museum had '200 mediocre paintings, mainly copies.' However, the jaundiced travel writer did admit that the cathedral of St Gatien 'late as it is' was 'striking and picturesque', and admired the Renaissance buildings on the Rue du Commerce and Rue de Briçonnet. 7

Whistler made at least two etchings of markets in Tours. In 1888 he recorded having both 'The Market Place Tours' and Little Market Place, Tours [389]. 8 The scene may be the corner of Place Plumereau. 9

7: John Murray, A Handbook for Travellers in France, London, 1875, 13th ed., part 1, p. 219.

8: List, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233.

9: Chateaux de la Loire, Michelin, Clermont Ferrand, 1997, repr. p. 235; information from M. Hopkinson.


During his honeymoon in 1888, Whistler etched several market scenes, small (The Market Place, Tours, Market Women: Turkeys [424], Booth, Market Place, Loches [425], Market Women, Loches [423]), medium-sized (Little Market Place, Tours [389]) and large (Hôtel de Ville, Loches [412]). He etched 'large' and 'small' market scenes in Loches and Tours. His wife, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896), may be the fashionably dressed woman in the middle of the square in The Market Place, Tours. In 1890/1892 she listed several similar subjects among his etchings, including:
'Market women Loches, 1888
Market Place (Little). Tours. 1888
Market Place. The. Tours. 1888 ...
Market place (The - Large - ) Loches 1888' 10

10: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

Artists following in Whistler's footsteps in Tours include David Young Cameron (1865-1945), who etched four adjoining houses in the Place Plumereau, Tours (R.353) in 1902/1903. 11 It is not the same view as Whistler's, but is clearly influenced by Whistler's street compositions, with the façade placed parallel to the edge of the copper plate. However, in The Market Place, Tours, Whistler etched a much deeper space, full of figures and details that add to the spatial complexity of the scene.

Similarly John Taylor Arms (1887-1963) etched the Place Plumereau in 1925, showing the façades of the picturesque houses with their distinctive gables, on one side of the market-place, but not the market itself. 12

Other artists working in the town include Malcolm Osborne (1880-1963) who etched Market Place, Tours in 1914. 13 Later, in 1925, Louis Conrad Rosenberg (1890-1983) etched The Little Market, Tours, in which the market is dwarfed by the church. 14

11: Frank Rinder, D. Y. Cameron: An illustrated catalogue of his etchings and drypoints 1887-1932, 1932, no. 353.

12: W.D. Fletcher, John Taylor Arms, A Man For All Time , Library of Congress, 1982 (cat. no. 160). See St John's University website at (acc. 2012).

13: Salaman, Malcolm, 'The etchings of Malcolm Osborne', Print Collector's Quarterly, 1925 (XII) pp. 285-313, cat. no. 53.

14: Cornell University Library, Acc. no. 64.0306; (acc. 2012).