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Sets and Series

The 'French Set'

'Douze Eaux-Fortes d'après Nature' (Twelve Etchings from Nature).

This was Whistler's first published set of etchings. It includes etchings dating from 1857 and 1858, done in London, Paris, and on a trip to Alsace and along the Rhine into Germany in 1858, in company with Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870).
The set was printed by Auguste Delâtre (1822-1907) at the premises of Edmond Gosselin (1849-1917) at 71 Rue St Jacques in Paris in an edition of 20 in November 1858. Then the plates were taken to London and printed under Delâtre's direction, with the assistance of Whistler and Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) in an edition of 50 sets a few weeks later. Some of the plates were reprinted after being bought by Ralph Thomas, Sr (1803-1862) in 1860. 1 The set as published comprised twelve etchings, Little Arthur [8], Annie [7], La Mère Gérard [24], Fumette [12], La Rétameuse [26], En Plein Soleil [11], Liverdun [13], The Unsafe Tenement [18], Street at Saverne [14], La Vieille aux Loques [27], La Marchande de Moutarde [20], The Kitchen [16] and The Title Page for 'Douze Eaux Fortes d'après Nature' [22], as illustrated below:

1: Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984.

Impression: K0090302
Little Arthur [8]
Impression: K0100502
Annie [7]
Impression: K0110403
La Mère Gérard [24]
Impression: K0130402
Fumette [12]
Impression: K0140202
La Rétameuse [26]
Impression: K0150202
En Plein Soleil [11]
Impression: K0160202
Liverdun [13]
Impression: K0170303
The Unsafe Tenement [18]
Impression: K0190404
Street at Saverne [14]
Impression: K0210202
La Vieille aux Loques [27]
Impression: K0220302
La Marchande de Moutarde [20]
Impression: K0240205
The Kitchen [16]
Impression: K0250106
The Title Page for 'Douze Eaux Fortes d'après Nature' [22]
An alternative title page, mentioning thirteen rather than twelve plates (including the etching of the title) was originally planned and is reproduced below:
Impression: K025B01
An Artist Sketching [23]
Many of these were etched directly from the sitter or on site. However, several of those started on the Rhine trip were based on drawings and watercolours and may have been etched on Whistler's return to Paris. Street at Saverne [14] and The Kitchen [16] were based on pencil and watercolour studies; The Title Page for 'Douze Eaux Fortes d'après Nature' [22] and An Artist Sketching [23] on drawings, and La Marchande de Moutarde [20] was a composition based on two separate drawings, reproduced below.
[comparative image]
[comparative image]
Impression: K0220302
La Marchande de Moutarde [20]


The Fitzwilliam Museum online catalogue comments:
'They include domestic and genre scenes, studies of friends or their children, and glimpses of shadowy figures in backstreets, alleyways and anonymous interiors. Whistler referred to the series as his 'French Set', although not all the subjects are French. Choice of subjects and treatment reflected Whistler's awareness of modern realist trends in French art.' 2

2: Fitzwilliam Museum website at (accessed 2011).

The Copper Plates

Of the twelve plates of the 'French Set', five were acquired by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1906: Annie [7], La Mère Gérard [24], En Plein Soleil [11], Liverdun [13] - reproduced below - and An Artist Sketching [23]. One went to Boston Museum of Fine Arts (La Marchande de Moutarde [20]), one to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1933 (Street at Saverne [14]) and some have not been located (Little Arthur [8], La Vieille aux Loques [27], The Unsafe Tenement [18], La Rétameuse [26] and Fumette [12]).
The smallest plate in the 'French Set' is Little Arthur [8] at 81 x 54 mm, and Street at Saverne [14] is the largest, at 209 x 159 mm.
Etching: PK016_01 (plate)
Copper plate, Liverdun [13],
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
Impression: K0160202
Liverdun [13]



  • 77th exhibition, Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1859


  • 'The Fitzwilliam Museum : The French Set 1857-61' at (accessed 2010).
  • Kennedy, Edward G., The Etched Work of Whistler, New York, 1910 (cat. nos. 9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25).
  • Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, chap. 1.
  • Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909 (cat. nos. 7, 8, 11-13, 15-17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25).
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, I, pp. 71-72.
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, chap. 7.