The Mill

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 457
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 161 x 241 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 13
Catalogues: K.413; M.415
Impressions taken from this plate  (13)


It was never published. However, it is closely related Whistler's unpublished 'Amsterdam Set'.


It was first exhibited in 1890 by the print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) in London, while in New York, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) lent an impression to the Grolier Club (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130102). 9 Walter Steuben Carter (1824-1904) lent an impression to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130105). 10

One was for sale by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898. Whistler himself exhibited one at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, of which he was President, in 1899. 11 Another was lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) to the show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130502). 12 Impressions were shown - and bought - in Dresden in 1901 and 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130505) and shown in Philadelphia - lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) - in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130104). 13

Finally, impressions appeared at the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. In 1904, three different states were shown at the Grolier Club in New York and one was lent by Mansfield to the Boston Memorial (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130104), while others were shown in 1905 in London and Paris. 14

9: London Dunthorne 1890; New York 1890a.

10: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2267 [1687] ).

11: London ISSPG 1899 (cat. no. 249). See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

12: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 306).

13: Dresden 1901; Dresden 1902; Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 [275]),

14: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 292 a,b,c); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 196).


Whistler set the price at £12.12.0. The first recorded sale was in March 1890 to John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929). 15 Whistler sold mostly to print dealers, including an 'Early' proof sold to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) on 23 June 1890 16 and another impression to Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst in 1891. 17

Whistler sold what he described as the '2nd Proof pulled' of the 'First State' to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130102) and Freer wrote back ordering an impression for Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), who had admired it. 18 Beatrice Whistler organised the collection of prints for Hecker, telling Freer that 'The proof of "the Mill" is the last one of that state of the plate'. 19

Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) was upset because he felt that Freer was getting preferential treatment, so he complained to Whistler:

15: GUW #13093.

16: Whistler to Frederick Keppel (1845-1912), GUW #13064.

17: 21 January-27 June 1891, GUW #13070.

18: Whistler to C. L. Freer, 4 March 1890, GUW #13065; Freer to Whistler, 28 April 1890, #01501.

19: [15 May 1890], GUW #11667.

'It has given me pleasure to note the favor which your Amsterdam etchings have met with here.... My pleasure, however, has been tinged with chagrin as I have seen other collectors have the choice which I have been wont to have of the proofs which have come to our printsellers. For having sent my orders to you - as you once asked me to do - I have had to stay my hand until I should hear from you. But nearly two months have gone without reply to my letter, so that to-day I am un-certain whether or not I have or ever shall have fine proofs of The Mill, The Bridge, The Little Drawbridge, and The Embroidered Curtain'. 20

20: 15 May 1890, GUW #03989.

Whistler immediately responded, on 28 June 1890, by sending him six impressions of Dutch etchings including 'The Mill'. 21

Impression: K4130502

21: 21 July [1890], GUW #13048.

Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) also announced that Wunderlich's had not received 'The Mill', 'which we should like a proof of.' In response, Whistler sent one on 11 August 1890. 22 This may have been the impression inscribed 'for Wunderlich' on the verso (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130502, reproduced above). It was acquired by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916), who certainly owned it by 1900. In 1900 and 1901 Whistler sold some more impressions to Wunderlich's. 23 The New York firm also handled an impression from the Royal Collection in 1906, which is said to have been bought by Mansfield, and was later acquired by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130503). 24 Wunderlich's also sold one marked '1st proof pulled', which was eventually given by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130103).

22: 31 July 1890, GUW #07191; 19 September 1890, #13059.

23: Wunderlich's to Whistler, GUW #07322; 16 April 1901, #07330.

24: Heijbroek 1997, p. 71.

Sales continued with varying success. One sent by Whistler to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) on 2 July 1890 was returned on 21 August. 25 However, Whistler sold eight etchings (including Graphic with a link to impression #K4130505) and a lithograph to the Königl. Kupferstichkabinett Dresden for £50.0.0. 26

Early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130301), Emma Regina Martin (1921-2009) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130506) and Frank Lusk Babbott (1854-1903) (Graphic with a link to impression #K4130z03). The first went to New York Public Library, the next to a private collection and the latter was given by his descendants to Brooklyn Museum.

25: GUW #13044.

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