The Square House, Amsterdam

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 454
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 231 x 175 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 7
Known impressions: 16
Catalogues: K.404; M.403; W.261
Impressions taken from this plate  (16)


The Square House, Amsterdam is part of the 'Amsterdam Set' although it was not published as such by a print dealer.


It was first shown at Dunthorne's print gallery in London in 1890, and at the Grolier Club in New York in the same year - the latter lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040203). 8 Freer wrote to Whistler, '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 -' 9

Other impressions were exhibited a few years later by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898, then in the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900, lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040202), and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1902, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040107). 10

8: London Dunthorne 1890; New York 1890a.

9: Freer to Whistler, 28 April 1890, GUW #01501.

10: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 227); Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [261]); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

Whistler sent a very good impression, on which he had worked with fine brush or pen, to an international exhibition at Dresden in 1901. It was bought immediately from the show by the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040108) and promptly exhibited again in Dresden in 1902. 11
Finally impressions were shown in the Memorial exhibitions after Whistler's death, including the Grolier Club, New York in 1904, and in Boston in the same year, in Paris in 1905, and an impression from the Royal Collection was shown in London in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040206). 12

12: New York 1904a (cat. no. 281); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 261).


The first sale recorded by Whistler was eight Dutch etchings including 'The Square House' sold to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) on 17 February 1890; it was priced at £12.12.0. less 20 per cent discount. 13

Whistler occasionally annotated his prints for particular patrons. One impression of the final state is signed with a butterfly and inscribed 'Selected for / Chs. Freer' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040203). This impression was sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) on 4 March, and on the same day, another fine impression, this time of the fifth state, was sold to Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), inscribed ''Early State - / Chosen for Howard Mansfield' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040107). 14 In each case the price was the full £12.12.0. Mansfield's impression was sold through A. A. Hahlo & Co., New York, to Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937) in 1919 and later acquired by the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040107). Freer showed his impression to Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), who immediately offered to buy an impression, which was sent on 16 June. 15

Fine and elaborate etchings such as these gravitated from one important dealer and collection to another, often ending up in major public collections. A beautiful impression of the final state was acquired by the Royal Collection in Britain, and sold in 1906 in quick succession to Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York (stock no. 42048), and Obach & Co., being finally bought by Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936), who bequeathed it to the University of Michigan Art Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040206).

13: GUW #13039.

14: GUW #13047, #13065.

15: Freer to Whistler, 28 April 1890, GUW #01501; Whistler to Freer, #13066.

The next sale recorded was to the Fine Art Society, London art dealers, on 13 March 1890, at the same price and discount as to other dealers. 16 Whistler then sent three to H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, but they returned an impression of the first state. In 1897 they bought another impression and in 1900 and 1901 recorded single impressions among sales to date. 17

Whistler sold Messrs Dowdeswell a group of the Dutch etchings on 19 May 1890, followed by sales to F. Keppel & Co. on 23 June and Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst on 26 June of the following year. 18

Whistler used exhibitions as a means of promoting and selling his work. An obviously successful exhibition was that in Dresden in 1901, where the Kupferstich-Kabinett immediately bought a fine worked impression of The Square House, Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040108).

16: GUW #13002.

17: B. Whistler to Wunderlich, [3 April 1890], GUW #06585; Wunderlich's, 29 May 1890, #13058; [August 1897], #07289; 6 April 1900 #07322; 16 April 1901, #07330.

18: GUW #00916; (No. 7 of 11 sold) #13064; #06806.

Whistler sent eight framed impressions of the Dutch etchings on 5 August 1890 to Elbert Jan Van Wisselingh. (1848-1912). 19 A fine impression of a very early state, a unique impression of the second state, was acquired by a Dutch collector and given later to the Municipal Archives in Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040001).

Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) inherited two impressions of the fourth state from Whistler, which she gave to the University of Glasgow. One of these was sold by the University to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040102) and the other was kept by the Hunterian (Graphic with a link to impression #K4040207).

19: GUW #13239.