Balcony, Amsterdam

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 446
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 272 x 169 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 27
Catalogues: K.405; M.404; W.262
Impressions taken from this plate  (27)


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 However, it is considered part of Whistler's clearly defined but unpublished 'Amsterdam Set'.


Whistler appears to have regarded this etching highly. It was exhibited several times in 1890, at Dunthorne's gallery in London, at the Grolier Club in New York, lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050302), and in Brussels (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050302). 11 One was shown with a group of Amsterdam etchings at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers during Whistler's presidency in London in 1899. It was reviewed favourably by R.A.M. Stevenson:
'Mr. Whistler contributes a small room full of new etchings, which seem more fascinating than all but two of his painted exhibits. ... the most agreeable of all Mr Whistler's contributions are those lively water-fronts showing through a rain of fine lines, airy palaces, or crumbling storehouses pierced with sombre caves that open on a mystery of gloom. Of these "The Balcony, Amsterdam", "The Pierrot", "Nocturne, Amsterdam" may serve as good examples.' 12

12: The Academy, London, 20 May 1899, pp. 561-2; London ISSPG 1899 (cat. no. 239).

An impression was also shown in Dresden in 1901 (and bought for the gallery) and promptly exhiobited again in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050314). 13

Other impressions were exhibited in America, first at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, lent by Walter Steuben Carter (1824-1904). 14 Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) bought the first proof, which he lent to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050102). 15 Another impression was shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1902, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050319). 16

Impressions also appeared in print dealer's shows, exhibited by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898, and by Obach & Co. in London in 1903.

It was shown in Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, in 1904 in Boston (lent again by W.S. Carter) and in New York (where three impressions were exhibited at the Grolier Club). 17 Others were shown in Paris in 1905, and, lent by the Board of Education, in London in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050315). 18


14: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2265 [1683]).

15: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 228).

16: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [262]).

17: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 189); New York 1904a (cat. nos. 282, a,b,c).

18: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 262).


Whistler gave some impressions to friends. One was given to Elizabeth Lewis, wife of George Henry Lewis (1833-1911) and she later gave it to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050305). Another was given to his bankers, Messrs Drummond, 'with my compliments and thanks for your kind courtesies to me while abroad'. 19

19: [8 February 1890], GUW #10522.

Whistler set the price high, at £15.15.0, and first sold an impression on 17 February 1890 to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), who held the first exhibition of the Amsterdam etchings. 20 Rarely seen in auctions, an impression from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was sold at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 342) as 'The Balcony, Holland' and was bought by Dunthorne for £8.5.0.

However, at the price of £15.15.0 Whistler sold one impression direct to a collector, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), on 4 March 1890. Whistler signed one impression ''4. / oo / chosen for / Chs. L. Freer' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050302). 21 Freer immediately ordered another on behalf of Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), which was sent on 15 May (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050207). 22

20: GUW #13039.

21: GUW #13065; Merrill 1995, p. 67.

22: 28 April 1890, GUW #01501, 16 June [1890], #13066.

Then Whistler sold several more to art dealers, on 6 March 1890 to Messrs Dowdeswell; on 13 March to the Fine Art Society, London; three to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York on 3 April, of which one, a 'first state', was returned on 29 May; and one (No. 5 in a list of eleven sold) to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in June 1890. 23 Keppel may have sold this to Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951), whence it came to Boston Public Library (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050208).
In 1893 it appears Whistler sent Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) an impression for Wunderlich's but Kennedy returned it, explaining:
'I have ... one etching of "The Balcony". This print I already have in stock. I should have been more specific and asked you for "The Balcony - Venice", which is the subject I want. I would have kept this, but I have one already, and business is very dull yet.' 24

24: 10 November 1893, GUW #07223.

In 1897 Wunderlich's still had two impressions 'on hand'. 25 However, a sale was recorded by Wunderlich's by 1900, at £12.12.0. 26

At the higher price, £15.15.0, Whistler sold an impression direct to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) on 2 July 1890 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050315). 27 Eight Dutch subjects including 'Balcony, Amsterdam' were sold to Elbert Jan Van Wisselingh. (1848-1912) on 5 August 1890. 28 One was probably the impression now in the Municipal Archives, Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050310). In the following year Whistler sold another direct to his friend, the Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), on 21 February 1891. 29

Ten years later, in 1901, Whistler sold an assortment of eight etchings, including this one (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050314) and a lithograph to the Königl. Kupferstichkabinett Dresden for £50.0.0. 30

An impression was left in Whistler's studio at his death and bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050311) and in addition she had two or three impressions printed by Nathaniel Sparks (1880-1956). She bequeathed two of these to the University of Glasgow, which retained one (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050303) and exchanged another (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050311) with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

25: [August 1897], GUW #07289.

26: '158', Wunderlich's to Whistler, 6 April 1900, GUW #07322.

27: GUW #13044.

28: GUW #13239.

29: GUW #00920.

30: E. R. Bankgeschäft to Whistler, GUW #00947, #05204.

Early collectors included Thomas Croft, whose impression was sold by Obach & Co. in 1905 to Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050203); Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050319); and George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4050z02).