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Sets and Series

'The Thames Set'

A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames

'A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames' was published by Frederick Standridge Ellis (1830-1901) of Ellis & Green, London, in 1871.
The sixteen etchings were etched between 1859 and 1871.
1859: Thames Warehouses [46], Old Westminster Bridge [47], Limehouse [48], Eagle Wharf [50], Black Lion Wharf [54], The Pool [49], Thames Police [53], W. Jones, Lime-Burner, Thames Street [55] and J. Becquet, Sculptor [62].
1860: Rotherhithe [70].
1861: The Forge [86], Millbank [78], The Little Pool [79], Battersea Dawn (Cadogan Pier) [95], Old Hungerford Bridge [76].
1871: Chelsea Bridge and Church [102].
[comparative image]
View from 'The Angel', 2011.
Impression: K0660103
Rotherhithe [70]
The set comprises : Thames Warehouses [46], Old Westminster Bridge [47], Limehouse [48], Eagle Wharf [50], Black Lion Wharf [54], The Pool [49], Thames Police [53], W. Jones, Lime-Burner, Thames Street [55], J. Becquet, Sculptor [62], Rotherhithe [70], The Forge [86], Millbank [78], The Little Pool [79], Battersea Dawn (Cadogan Pier) [95], Old Hungerford Bridge [76] and Chelsea Bridge and Church [102].
Fourteen of these are Thames subjects and two are French, The Forge [86], which was a drypoint and was printed by Whistler, and one portrait, J. Becquet, Sculptor [62]. The set was printed in London and includes 13 horizontal scenes (starting with two in a narrow 'envelope' format) and three in vertical format.
Impression: K0380102
Thames Warehouses [46]
Impression: K0390102
Old Westminster Bridge [47]
Impression: K0400102
Limehouse [48]
Impression: K0420203
Black Lion Wharf [54]
Impression: K0430303
The Pool [49]
Impression: K0440203
Thames Police [53]
Impression: K0460103
W. Jones, Lime-Burner, Thames Street [55]
Impression: K0520103
J. Becquet, Sculptor [62]
Impression: K0410155
Eagle Wharf [50]
Impression: K0660103
Rotherhithe [70]
Impression: K0680203
The Forge [86]
Impression: K0710303
Millbank [78]
Impression: K0740302
The Little Pool [79]
Impression: K0750106
Battersea Dawn (Cadogan Pier) [95]
Impression: K0760202
Old Hungerford Bridge [76]
Impression: K0950302
Chelsea Bridge and Church [102]


Most of Whistler's etchings for the set were prepared for publication by 1869. In 1868/1869, Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890) tried to form a fine art company with Murray Marks (1840-1918), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and William Morris (1834-1906), which would deal in blue and white china and the decorative arts, and would have exclusive rights to Whistler's etchings. Ionides, having bought the copper plates, planned to published an edition in the Spring of 1869. Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) was involved in drumming up subscribers. For instance he wrote to George Rae:
'Would you like to subscribe for Whistler's Thames? I am much interested in this publication, and anxious to do away with the dealers habit of charging £5.5.0 for any strong proof they get of Whistlers. Should you subscribe it will be a favour both to myself and Whistler, as we are very anxious to place the whole 100 copies in the hands of friends. Rossetti who is here begs to be most kindly remembered.' 1

1: 3 April 1869, George Rae Papers, Walker Art Gallery Archive; many thanks to Martin Hopkinson for this reference.

Whistler's mother was also involved in marketing. She wrote to a friend in America:
'his Etchings will soon be published, they say, the Co[mpany] have had to wait for Japanese paper to print them on. I am so sorry your set was not mounted as these will be, but am glad you have [a] more full set, and by & by your dear Harriet can amuse [her]self mounting yours on Bristol board to frame or put in a portfolio for your library table - ' 2

2: A.McN. Whistler to H. and J.H. Gamble, 6 May 1869, GUW #06542.

However, the company envisaged by Ionides was never activated, and the Thames set was not on the whole printed on Japanese paper, except for The Forge [86]. 3

3: Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, p. 168.

Several impressions of the etchings were printed and exhibited by Whistler himself in the 1860s. Some were also printed by Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) - one of Thames Police [53], for instance, was printed by Goulding in 1864. An edition was then published by Ellis & Green from the steel-faced plates in 1871. These were followed by impressions printed for the Fine Art Society in the late 1870s, again, by Goulding.
Whistler defined the different sets in a letter to Scribner's Magazine in 1880:
'... Delâtre, then at his prime had himself printed these etchings ... Moreover I had myself pulled proofs of them all - indeed one in the set of sixteen plates was a dry point called the Forge ... I alone printed -

...The plates were brought out by Messrs. Ellis who had them printed by some one in London, whose work was certainly not to be compared to that of Delâtre whom I should undoubtedly have recommended, so that it was only long after the sale had been completed and the plates had ceased to be in my possession that inferior impressions were produced. -

The understanding on my part with those publishers was that the plates were to be destroyed after one hundred impressions had been taken, but very recently they reappeared and were sold to their present possessors who did take them [to] Mr Goulding. - ... Mr Goulding naturally found the etchings in their original perfect condition - simply because I had had them stealed [sic] in their full bloom when I had satisfied myself by my own proofs .-
Gouldings impressions of these plates are very excellent - but to say they were quite unapproached by Delâtre, is not only needless exageration [sic], but an unkindness to Mr. Goulding.' 4

4: [16 August 1880], GUW #04281

Not all of the etchings and drypoints were printed in the same numbers. Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of Keppel & Co., New York, acquired the copper plates in the late 1880s and published them in yet another 'limited' edition. Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) had the plates in his hands and removed the steel-facing, in 1894. He printed proofs from some to show the condition of the copper plates (Graphic with a link to impression #K0390z22, Graphic with a link to impression #K0750z02). He may then have re-steeled all or some of them (Graphic with a link to impression #K0400z30). It is not known if Goulding or another printer continued to print from them at that time. The plates were then cancelled and at least three full sets were printed from the cancelled plates. 5 Proofs of the cancelled plates and the cancelled plates themselves (not steeled) were sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) by F. Keppel & Co. in January 1896. A set of the cancelled proofs was presented by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) to the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1903. 6

5: Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow; Freer Gallery of Art.

6: F. Courboin, 'La "Suite de la Tamise" de J. McN. Whistler', Le Bulletin de l'Art, December 1903, pp. 319-20..



  • Anon., 'Art', The Critic, 25 May 1861, p. 672
  • Ernest Chesneau, L'Art et les artistes moderne en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1864, pp. 190-1.
  • Paul Mantz, 'Les Beaux Arts a l'Exposition Universelle', Gazette des Beaux Arts, XXIII, 1867, p. 230.
  • The Westminster Review, XI, July 1871, pp. 312-13.
  • The Saturday Review, 12 August 1871.
  • [F.G. Stephens], The Athenaeum, 26 August 1871, pp. 280-81.
  • Anon., 'Two sets of etchings', Pall Mall Gazette, 1 January 1872, pp. 11-12.


  • 92nd Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1860.
  • The Works of James Whistler - Etchings and Dry Points, E. Thomas, 39 Old Bond Street, London, 1861.
  • International Exhibition, London, 1862.
  • [Exposition], Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1862.
  • Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874.
  • Collection illustrative of the History and Practice of Etching. Lent and Catalogued by James Anderson Rose, Esq., of London, Liverpool, 1874.
  • Exhibition of works loaned to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1879.
  • [Exhibition], Craibe Angus's Gallery, Glasgow, 1879.
  • Etchings and Dry Points, The Union League Club, New York, 1881.
  • Ausstellung der Maler-Radierungen französischer und englischer Künstler der Neuzeit, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1881.
  • World's Columbian Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1893.
  • Exhibition of Etchings, Drypoints. and Lithographs by Whistler, H. Wunderlich and Co., New York, 1898.
  • An Exhibition of Etchings and Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, The Caxton Club, 1900.
  • Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 .
  • Exhibition of Etchings and Dry Points by Mr. Whistler, Frederick Keppel and Co., New York, 1902.
  • 71st Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1902.
  • A Collection of Etchings and Dry Points by Whistler recently acquired, H. Wunderlich and Co., New York, 1903.
  • Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Copley Hall, Boston, February 1904.
  • Etchings and Dry-Points by James McNeill Whistler, The Grolier Club, New York, 1904.
  • Oeuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'École des Beaux-Art, Paris, 1905.
  • Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905.


  • Chambers, Emma, An Indolent and Blundering Art?, Ashgate 1999.
  • F. Courboin, 'La "Suite de la Tamise" de J. McN. Whistler', Le Bulletin de l'Art, December 1903, pp. 319-20.
  • Fitzwilliam Museum website at (accessed 2010).
  • Hopkinson, Martin, 'An Early Review of Whistler's Thames Set', Print Quarterly, XXVI, 2009, pp. 46-54.
  • Kennedy, Edward G., The Etched Work of Whistler, New York, 1910 (cat. nos. 38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95).
  • Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, chap. 2.
  • Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909 (cat. nos. 37-43, 45, 52, 66, 68, 71, 73, 75, 76, 96.
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, I, chap. 8 and 12.
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921.
  • Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to Atlas], The World: A Journal For Men and Women, no. 339, vol. 13, 29 December 1880, p. 12.
  • Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London, 1890, pp. 88-89.