The Steps, Amsterdam

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 452
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 242 x 166 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 14
Catalogues: K.403; M.402; W.260
Impressions taken from this plate  (14)


The Steps, Amsterdam was never published. However, it is considered part of Whistler's clearly defined but unpublished 'Amsterdam Set'.


The 'Amsteram Set' was first shown by the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) in London in 1890. In the same year Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) exhibited his 'Amsterdam Set' at the Grolier Club in New York. 11 Freer wrote to Whistler about the reception of the Dutch etchings :
'I presume Mr Mansfield has written you about the charming Exhibition of your work recently made at the Grolier Club in New York - All ten of the prints herein named were shown ... Many N. Y. artists attended the exhibition and were particularly delighted with your latest work - ' 12

12: 28 April 1890, GUW #01501.

Impressions were shown by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898, and by Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 13

Collectors were generous in lending works from their collections to focussed Whistler exhibitions and to large mixed shows. In 1900, Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent his impression of The Steps, Amsterdam to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030302). 14 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent one to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1902. 15 Walter Steuben Carter (1824-1904) lent one to the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030207) and the Whistler Memorial show in Boston in 1904. 16

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown in the Memorial Exhibitions, at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, in Boston in 1904 (as mentioned above), in Paris and London in 1905, the latter lent by King Edward VII, and, lent by Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935), in Rotterdam in 1906. 17


14: Chicago 1900 ( 226).

15: Philadelphia 1902 ( 947 [260]).

16: Chicago 1893 ( 2263 [1684] ); Boston 1904 ( 187).

17: London Mem. 1905 ( 260); Rotterdam 1906 ( 89).


The price of The Steps, Amsterdam was set at £12.12.0. At this price Whistler sold an impression on 17 February 1890 to the London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), who held an exhibition of the 'Amsterdam Set' in 1890. 18

Whistler then sold impressions to two major collectors, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) and Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), on 4 March 1890. 19 Mansfield's impression of the second state was specially inscribed on the verso, 'chosen for / Howard Mansfield' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030206) and is now in the Library of Congress. Freer's of the third state is likewise inscribed, 'Selected for / Chs. L. Freer.' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030303) and was shown to Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), who immediately asked if he could buy a set of the Amsterdam etchings. Whistler responded quickly and sent these on 15 May. 20

Whistler also sold impressions to friends including the poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), who bought one for £12.12.0 in 1891. 21 And Whistler may have given one to the conductor and composer George Henschel (1850-1934) - it is a fine impression, inscribed on the backboard, ''To / George Henschel- ' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030305, reproduced below). It was later bought by Theodore de Witt (dates unknown), and given by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

18: GUW #13039; London Dunthorne 1890.

19: GUW #13047, #13065; 15 May 1890 (28 April 1890), Merrill 1995, p. 67 (Letter 2), GUW #01501.

20: Freer to Whistler, 28 April 1890, GUW #01501; Whistler to Freer, 16 June [1890], GUW #13066.

21: 21 February [1891], GUW #00920.

Impression: K4030305
There were a sequence of sales to dealers at £12.12.0 a time by Whistler in 1890: to Messrs Dowdeswell on 6 March; the Fine Art Society, London, on 13 March; three to H. Wunderlich & Co. on 3 April; and to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., also in April. 22 The latter was numbered '3' in a list of 11 Amsterdam etchings sold to Keppel, and may be the fine impression of the second state annotated 'No 3' that was acquired by Walter Steuben Carter (1824-1904), and lent by him to an exhibition in Chicago in 1893 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030207). 23 It later found its way to Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951), and so to Boston Public Library.

22: GUW #13804; #13002; B. Whistler to Wunderlich's, #06585; Whistler to Keppel, 23 June 1890, #13064.

23: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2263 [1684] ).

Wunderlich's may have returned some proofs on 29 May: they only confirmed the purchase of a '2nd State' bought on 3 April and 'Last State' on 6 May 1890. 24 One of these may have been the impression inscribed 'for Wunderlich' and sold by Wunderlich's to Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030302).

24: Whistler to Wunderlich, 29 May 1890, GUW #13058.

In the following year, Deprez & Gutekunst bought an impression from Whistler on 26 June 1891. 25 Deprez bought another, for which he paid only £10.0.0, at the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), at Sotheby's on 3 March 1892 (lot 347). This was an impression of the third state, which is now also in the National Gallery of Art (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030306).

The Fine Art Society, London, also bought one for £12.12.0 from Whistler on 18 April 1893. 26 Finally Whistler sold one to Siegfried Bing (1838-1905) for the same price on 19 May 1897. 27

25: 21 January- 27 June 1891, GUW #13070.

26: GUW #01259.

27: [19-29 May 1897], GUW #13034.

Impression: K4030204
Early collectors, apart from those mentioned above, include John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908), and later Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030204, reproduced above); Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) and Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030206); John Henry Wrenn (1841-1911) and Pauline Kohlsaat Palmer (1882-1956) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030208); Albert W. Scholle (1860-1917) and William P. Chapman, Jr (Graphic with a link to impression #K4030307).