Impression: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Number: 70
Date: 1860
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 278 x 203 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower left
Inscribed: '1860.' at lower left
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 118
Catalogues: K.66; M.66; T.41; W.60
Impressions taken from this plate  (118)


Published as 'Wapping' in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on The Thames and other Subjects (the 'Thames Set') by Messrs Ellis & Green in 1871.
The publication, and this etching, were reviewed enthusiastically by F. G. Stephens:
'No. 5 'Wapping': it is a wonderful piece of work. The time seems nearly noon on one of the hottest of London days; the place is the water's edge ; the scene, a timber structure on the bank, where one gets a view over the stream which trends to our left in a smooth expanse, but darker in the flood of brilliant light; here are cranes and ropes pendant from them; a tall beam goes from the bottom to the top of the design, to support overhead a work of boards and showing beyond the latter and - slender masts, yards and ropes of a brig, a shipper and his mate, smoke sedately, without the remotest idea on conversation. This work is nearly as rich as 'The Lime-Burners', and has a more striking subject.' 14

14: The Athenaeum, 26 August 1871, pp. 280-81.


An impression exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1862 was mentioned by the critic of the Athenaeum, F.G. Stephens, who compared it to the work of Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681): 'Mr Whistler sends some fine etchings ... with extraordinary feeling for substance and marvellous tone: Rotherhithe ... a ship unloading, with all her rigging solid as Rembrandt could give it.' 15

15: Athenaeum, 24 May 1862, p. 699.

Whistler then exhibited one impression with the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1862, and another richly inked impression on thin, glossy Japanese paper at the Salon in 1863. This exceptionally beautiful impression - reproduced below - was acquired after the exhibition by George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660001). 16

16: Paris Salon 1863a (cat. no. 2758).

Impression: K0660001
In the same year an impression was selected for a small exhibition organised by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), 'The Artists' and Amateurs Conversazione', at Willis's Rooms, London, 26 March 1863. Whistler wrote to Rose:
'Now about the exhibition tomorrow - I have brought you 6. proofs - ready to frame - (Vokins has promised that the frames for them will be there in time quite); - also two large proofs framed - Vokins will send you one more of the same size with a fine proof of the large "Rotherhithe" - making in all with the six proofs you exhibit for me, 15 etchings -' 17

17: Whistler to Rose, [25 March 1863], GUW #08983. See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

William Michael Rossetti, who also saw Whistler as the successor to Rembrandt, described this 'fine display of etchings' at Willis's Rooms:
'his etchings have always shown a marked propensity for shore-life, river life, boat-life, barge-life - for everything which hints of old wharves, jetties, piers, rigging, bow-windows overlooking reaches of the peopled-stream, and that class of hard-fisted, square-shouldered, solid and stolid-faced men, on whom the odour of tar and tobacco is equally incorporate.' 18

18: 'Mr Whistler's Etchings', The Reader, 4 April 1863. In GUL PC1/3.

In 1874 Rotherhithe was shown with Rose's collection in a travelling show that went to Liverpool and elsewhere, and by Whistler himself, in his first one-man show in London. 19 It was shown privately in clubs for connoisseurs and collectors like the Union League Club in New York, to which a touched proof and 'finished state' were lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660201, Graphic with a link to impression #K0660110). 20

Impressions were exhibited at the Glasgow Internationals in 1888, lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924), and 1901, lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901). 21 One was shown in the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and another in an Art and Industrial exhibition in Wolverhampton in 1902. 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 #K0660302 or Graphic with a link to impression #K0660303); and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) to a major loan exhibition in Philadelphia in 1902 (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660332). 22

Impressions were also included in print dealer's exhibitions such as those of Craibe Angus in Glasgow, and both Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., and H. Wunderlich & Co., in New York. 23

Finally it was shown in the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death, including Boston in 1904, to which impressions were lent by Francis Bullard (1862-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660109) and Mansfield (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660332), and London in 1905, to which one was lent by King Edward VII. 24

19: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 495); London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 15).

20: New York 1881 (cat. no. 83, 84).

21: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-3); Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 253).

22: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 55). Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 (59))


24: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 52-53); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 60).


After 1871 it was usually sold as part of the 'Thames Set', the whole set obtaining prices between £11.11.0 and £18.18.0 when sold at auction. 25

The British Museum bought an impression from Percy Thomas (1846-1922) on 13 July 1872. (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660106). 26 This would have been the impression held in 'the scanty collection of modern etchings in the British Museum' cited by H. Stewart Cundell in an article on 'English Etching', and described as 'a magnificent sketch of a tall vessel, figures in the foreground, the long line of dark warehouses bordering the shining water, and St. Paul's dome looming in the distance.' 27

Early impressions of Rotherhithe, often described as 'rare' and 'proofs' reached variable prices. At the Philippe Burty (1830-1890) sale in 1876 one was bought by Hogarth, the London print dealer, for £1.17.0. 28 Three impressions from the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) were exhibited by him in a travelling exhibition in 1874 and sold at Sotheby's in a three-day sale from 27 June 1876 (lots 704-6), one possibly being a touched proof (lot 705) which was acquired about that time by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K0660110).

Another impression, from the collection of John W. Wilson (dates unknown), was bought in 1887 by Messrs Dowdeswell for £4.14.6; in 1892 at the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) one fetched only £2.14.0, and another owned by William Bell Scott (1811-1890) fetched even less, £2.6.0. 29

Whistler had probably sold impressions direct to some collectors; for instance, he probably sold one to Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), and this was sold at auction with the rest of Leyland's collection at Christie's in 1893, and bought by Otto Gutekunst (ca 1865-after 1939) for £3.3.0. 30

Sometimes Whistler bought back his etchings, only to re-sell them. An impression from the collection of Joseph Fioupou (1814-1884) sold at the Hotel Drouot in Paris in 1884 for 11 fr. to Edmond Gosselin (1849-1917). 31 A few years later, in 1887, Whistler bought an impression from Edmond Gosselin (1849-1917), possibly this one, for 130 francs and sold it to Craibe Angus & Son of Glasgow for £15.15.0, making a good profit. 32

Around 1900, the impressions printed for and marketed by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) were sold for £18.18.0. 33

25: i.e. Sotheby's, 31 May 1877 (lot 5391) sold to 'Smith'; Christie's, 30 March 1878 (lot 495) to F.A.S., and 8 March 1881 (lot 456) to 'Taylor'.

26: B.M. Print Room Register of Purchases... 1872.

27: 'English Etching', The Standard, London, 25 April 1878, p. 2 (GUL PC1/94).

28: Sotheby's, 1 May 1876 (lot 918).

29: Sotheby's, 22 April 1887 (lot 197); 3 March 1892 (lot 112) sold to 'Blunt'; 14 July 1892 (lot 129) to B. F. Stevens.

30: 24 February 1893 (lot 179).

31: 31 March 1884 (lot 292).

32: Whistler to F.A.S., 9 May 1887, GUW #13098; C. Hanson to Angus, [8 August 1887?], #00169; Whistler to Angus, [8 August 1887 - 20 January 1888], #13045.

33: H. Wunderlich & Co. 1900 stock book, no. a33968: 'Keppel asks 18/18- for his modern one - if signed ask more'.