The Pierrot

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 450
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 231 x 162 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left (6-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 33
Catalogues: K.407; M.406; W.264
Impressions taken from this plate  (33)


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 However, it is part of Whistler's clearly defined but unpublished 'Amsterdam Set'.


The Pierrot was widely exhibited. In 1890, it was among Amsterdam etchings shown in London by Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), and was shown in Brussels, and , lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070402), at the Grolier Club in New York. 14 Walter Steuben Carter (1824-1904) bought several fine impressions from the 'Amsterdam Set' and lent them to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 15

Impressions were shown by print dealers, H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 and 1903 and Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 16

14: London Dunthorne 1890; Brussels 1890 (cat. no. 1049); New York 1890a.

15: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2268 [1682]).


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:
'We must give the International Society praise in [an]other, and that an important matter - its encouragement of illustration and of the art of black-and-white. Mr. Whistler contributes a small room full of new etchings, which seem more fascinating than all but two of his painted exhibits. Some are slight enough, a mere scratch or two, as the marine "Jubilee Review" [sic], yet none the less studied and elegant in the point of their placing and the equality of their finish. One likes to see a result thus lightly, deftly and promptly obtained; for a few scratches, alas! can be weighty, meaningless, and even too many for the purpose. But 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.' 17

17: The Academy, London, 20 May 1899, pp. 561-2; London ISSPG 1899 (cat. no. 248).

Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression of Pierrot to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070202). 18 Other impressions appeared at major exhibitions in Buffalo in 1901, Dresden in 1901 and 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070508), and, lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), in Philadelphia in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070507, ). 19

Impressions were exhibited at the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, including three shown at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904 and one at the Paris Memorial show in 1905. Mansfield lent his impression to the Boston show in 1904 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070507), H.R.H. the Princess Victoria to the London exhibition in 1905, and Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) to an exhibition in Rotterdam in 1906 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070303). 20

18: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 230).

19: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [264]).

20: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 284, b, c, d); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 191); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 264); Rotterdam 1906 (cat. no. 41).


The price of The Pierrot was set at £15.15.0 and in March 1890 Whistler sold an impression to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), who held the first exhibition of the Amsterdam set. 21

Whistler then sold impressions direct to several private collectors including John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929) in March 1890; on 4 March he sold one to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) that had just been printed on 23 February (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070402) and another to Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070507); and then sold impressions to art dealers, Messrs Dowdeswell and the Fine Art Society. 22

He sold a 'first state' and a 'later state' (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K4070416) to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York, on 3 April. 23 Impressions were also sold to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. on 23 June 1890 and 13 January 1891. 24 At the same price - £15.15.0 - he sold another one to Deprez & Gutekunst. 25 A '1st Proof' was sold to Wunderlich's on 6 May for a much higher price, £18.18.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070103) and another impression on 11 August for the lower price of £15.15.0. 26 One of the impressions sold to Wunderlich's is inscribed 'Early state / for Wunderlich' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070z03), and other, later states, just 'For Wunderlich' (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070409 numbered '3'; and Graphic with a link to impression #K4070416). Another two were bought by H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 for £12.12.0, after their discount, and in 1900 for £15.15.0. 27

21: GUW #13039; London Dunthorne 1890.

22: GUW #13093; #13065; #13047; #00916; #13002.

23: 9 April 1890, GUW #06585.

24: GUW #13064.

25: GUW #13070.

26: Whistler to Wunderlich, 29 May 1890, GUW #13058; #13059.

27: Wunderlich's to Whistler, 24 March 1899, GUW #07305; 6 April 1900, #07322.

Whistler also apparently sold an impression to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) at £15.15.0, although this may have been the sale recorded earlier. 28

In 1901 Whistler sold an assortment of eight etchings, including The Pierrot (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070508), and a lithograph to the Königl. Kupferstichkabinett Dresden for £50.0.0. 29

At auction an impression from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was sold at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 346) to the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for £13.0.0. Dunthorne continued to buy impressions from Whistler, one for a very high price, £18.18.0, on 24 December 1902, possibly as a last-minute Christmas present, and another on 8 June 1903 for the highest price of all, £21.0.0. This was shortly before Whistler's death and the price may reflect Dunthorne's knowledge that the artist was failing. 30 At this time there were still three impressions in Whistler's studio, which were bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070303, Graphic with a link to impression #K4070409 and Graphic with a link to impression #K4070503).

28: 15 May 1890 =28 April 1890, Merrill 1995, p. 67 (Letter 2), GUW #01501.

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

30: Whistler to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), GUW #13040; #13042.

Early collectors included Arthur Haythorne Studd (1863-1919), who bequeathed an impression to the British Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070302); John Henry Wrenn (1841-1911) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070504); Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070416); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070502); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070403); Albert W. Scholle (1860-1917) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070103); Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070102); Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070506); George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070z03) and Pauline Kohlsaat Palmer (1882-1956) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4070418).