The Dance House: Nocturne

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 455
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 274 x 169 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 17
Catalogues: K.408; M.407; W.265
Impressions taken from this plate  (17)


Nocturne: Dance House was never published. However, it is part of Whistler's clearly defined but unpublished 'Amsterdam Set'.


It was first shown by the print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) in London and by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York, in 1890. Another show took place at Wunderlich's in 1903, and one at Obach & Co. in London in the same year. 21

One impression was shown at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in London in 1899, when Whistler was President (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K4080104, Graphic with a link to impression #K4080108 or Graphic with a link to impression #K4080302). 22 An art critic remarked: 'This master of the etched line - in my opinion - the greatest we have yet had - almost surpasses himself in four or five of these things. ... In the "Nocturne, Amsterdam" we get the insight of a man who seems to be able to steal the very spirit from the night.' 23 R.A.M. Stevenson added:

21: London Dunthorne 1890; see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

22: London ISSPG 1899 (cat. no. 243).

23: St Paul's, 27 May 1899 (GUL PC17/61).

'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, ... 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.' 24

24: The Academy, London, 20 May 1899, pp. 561-2.

Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080102). 25 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080105). 26

Impressions were shown in the comprehensive Memorial Exhibitions held after Whistler's death, in 1904 at the Grolier Club, New York, and, again lent by Mansfield, the Copley Society show in Boston in the same year; and in Paris and, lent by Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935), in London in 1905. 27

25: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 231).

26: Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [265]).

27: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 192); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 265).


Whistler set the price at £15.15.0, and sold several to London print dealers. He sold The Dance House: Nocturne first on 17 February 1890 to Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851); on 6 March he sold one to Messrs Dowdeswell and on 13 March 1890 to the Fine Art Society. 28 He instructed Ernest George Brown (1853/1854-1915), 'The "Nocturne" requires to be mounted properly at once, as it is only slipped into the frame at present -'. 29

He also sold directly to several collectors in March 1890: John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929), Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080103), and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080105). 30 Both Freer's and Mansfield's impressions are very beautiful, and are dedicated to the collectors. Mansfield's in addition is marked with three tiny 'o' marks on the verso, possibly indicating Whistler's approval. Freer showed his Amsterdam etchings to Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), and reported to Whistler: 'They completely charmed him and he requested me to if possible, secure copies for him of all those I have'. 31 Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896) replied on Whistler's behalf: 'The proof of "the Mill" is the last one of that state of the plate; and I find there is not a proof of the Nocturne with the figures - However Mr. Hecker can return it - when Mr Whistler prints some more -.' 32

Turning his attention to American dealers, Whistler sold two impressions 'as you desired ... some of them are on Japanese paper' on 3 April 1890 to Hermann Wunderlich (ca 1839- d.1892). 33 These were listed as 'The Nocturne. 1 (Before Figures) 18 gs' (£18.18.0) and '1 (After Figures)'. However, Wunderlich's appear to have returned the latter. 34 One impression marked 'for Freer' was not actually bought by Freer; Whistler added a second dedication, to Wunderlich, and it was bought by Wunderlich's and eventually sold to John Caldwell (fl. 1887-1907) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080109). A second impression with Wunderlich dedication went to George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080111).

On 9 April 1890 Whistler sold one to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. at the usual price of £15.15.0, less 20 per cent discount. 35 It was listed as 'No 4' in a group of eleven prints bought by Keppel, and this number is written on the impression printed on 25 February, and bought by Albert W. Scholle (1860-1917) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080106). Other American collectors include Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), who owned one by 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080102) and Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), who owned a superb impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080110).

28: GUW #13039; #13804; #13002.

29: [13 March 1890], GUW #03602.

30: GUW #13093, #13065, #13047.

31: 28 April 1890, GUW #01501.

32: 15 May 1890, GUW #11667.

33: B. Whistler to H. Wunderlich, GUW #06585.

34: GUW #13057, #13058.

35: 23 June 1890, GUW #13064.

Whistler had mixed fortunes with public galleries at that time. South Kensington Museum was sent one on 2 July 1890 but returned it on 21 August. 36 One fine impression was acquired by a Dutch collector and entered the Municipal Archives, Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080107). Most galleries acquired their impressions much later.

36: Whistler to S. Kensington Museum, 2 July 1890, GUW #13044.

At auction the prices were as usual a little lower than those received by Whistler. One impression was sold from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 345) and bought by Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for £6.5.0. Dunthorne bought another on 24 December 1902 (a late Christmas present perhaps) direct from Whistler for the more usual £15.15.0. 37

Several impressions were still in the studio at Whistler's death in 1903, and were bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4080000, Graphic with a link to impression #K4080104, Graphic with a link to impression #K4080108, all bequeathed to the University of Glasgow, and Graphic with a link to impression #K4080302, which she gave to the University in 1935).

37: GUW #13040.