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Sets and Series

The 'First Venice Set'


Venice, a Series of Twelve Etchings (the 'First Venice Set') was comissioned by the Fine Art Society, London, in 1879. Whistler arrived in Venice in September 1879 and returned 14 months later.
The 'First Venice Set' consisted of twelve etchings : The Little Venice [238], Nocturne [222], The Little Mast [196], The Little Mast [196], The Little Lagoon [216], The Palaces [223], The Doorway [193], The Piazzetta [218], The Traghetto [233], The Riva [229], The Two Doorways [221], The Beggars [190], and The Venetian Mast [219].
The set was exhibited and published in 1880. 1 In the exhibition of 1880, The Bridge, Santa Marta [201] was included, but it appears to have been replaced in the set as published with The Little Mast [196], possibly because The Bridge was not ready for printing. The Bridge was eventually published with the 'Second Venice Set'.

1: Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880.

Impression: K1830104
The Little Venice [238]
Impression: K1840401
Nocturne [222]
Impression: K1850403
The Little Mast [196]
Impression: K1860206
The Little Lagoon [216]
Impression: K1870304
The Palaces [223]
Impression: K1880603
The Doorway [193]
Impression: K1890303
The Piazzetta [218]
Impression: K1910203
The Traghetto [233]
Impression: K1920202
The Riva [229]
Impression: K1930303
The Two Doorways [221]
Impression: K1940204
The Beggars [190]
Impression: K1950504
The Venetian Mast [219]

Printing the 'First Venice Set'

Printing the 'First Venice Set' took Whistler from 1879-1880, when he was in Venice, and from late 1880, when he returned to London, for the next twenty years. Some etchings, like the Two Doorways reproduced below, went through many states and were printed in different ways, exploring variations in ink, tone and paper, as well as developments in the composition.
Impression: K1930302
The Two Doorways [221]
Impression: K1930403
The Two Doorways [221]
Impression: K1930602
The Two Doorways [221]
The edition of some etchings was still unfinished at his death in 1903. Editions started by Whistler in 1880 were completed by Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) after Whistler's death. Impressions of The Balcony, reproduced below, varied from the earliest bare impressions printed in black ink, to the fully developed composition, to the dramatic inking sometimes favoured by Whistler and Goulding for later impressions.
Impression: K1880102
The Doorway [193]
Impression: K1880302
The Doorway [193]
Impression: K1880702
The Doorway [193]

Printing Records

Printing records for the 'First Venice Set' are fairly full; the records are now mostly in the Whistler Collection, Special Collections, Glasgow University Library. 2

2: i.e. GUW #01137, #01136, #01160, #12991, #01217.

Copper Plates

Whistler was printing the 'First Venice Set' for the Fine Art Society until the end of his life.
In 1893, proofs were exhibited at the Fine Art Society in London alongside impressions of what were considered to be the final states (although in fact Whistler had not completed all of them), and the copper plates themselves. 3

3: E.R. Pennell, The Star, 6 February 1893; 'Art Exhibition', The Observer, 12 February 1893, p. 6.

Three plates, which were among the last completed, came with Whistler's estate to the Hunterian Art Gallery (The Doorway [193], The Beggars [190] and The Venetian Mast [219], reproduced below). Three were bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1902 (The Traghetto [233], The Riva [229], The Piazzetta [218] and The Little Mast [196]) and one came to the Cleveland Art Gallery (The Little Lagoon [216]). Finally three have not been located (The Little Venice [238], Nocturne [222], The Palaces [223]). This suggests a certain lack of organisation.
The Doorway [193] The Beggars [190] The Venetian Mast [219]



GUL PC: Whistler's Press-cutting Books, Special Collections, Glasgow University Library, annotated by the artist and assistants.
Fine Art Society, 1880
  • Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Venice Etchings', Daily News, London, 2 December 1880 (GUL PC4/15, 15/11).
  • Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Venice Etchings', Daily News, London, 2 December 1880 (GUL PC4/15, 15/11).
  • Anon., British Architect, 3 December 1880 (GUL PC4/19).
  • Anon., 'Mr.Whistler's Etchings', The Globe, 3 December 1880 (GUL PC4/15, 15/11).
  • Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Venice', St James' Gazette, 9 December 1880 (GUL PC4/17, PC15/13).
  • Anon., British Architect, XIV, 10 December 1880 (GUL PC4/19, PC6/18).
  • Anon. [H.Quilter], 'Mr.Whistler's "Venice" at the Fine-Art Society, New Bond Street', Spectator, vol.53, no. 2737, 11 December 1880, pp.1586-7 (GUL PC4, pp.13, 82).
  • Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Venetian Etchings', The Graphic, 11 December 1880.
  • Anon., [H.Quilter],'Mr. Whistler's Etchings of Venice', The Times, London, 25 December 1880, p. 4 (GUL PC4/11).
  • Anon., 'The Diffusion of Aesthetic Taste', Punch, 22 January 1881, p. 26
  • Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Venice Pastels', Daily News, 31 January 1881 (GUL PC4/37).
  • F.G. Stephens, The Athenaeum, 5 February 1881, p. 206.
Fine Art Society, 1893
  • E.R. Pennell, [Review of F.A.S. show], The Star, 6 February 1893.
  • 'Art Exhibition', The Observer, 12 February 1893, p. 6.


  • Bell, Lynne, Fact and Fiction: James McNeill Whistler's Critical Reputation in England, 1880-1892, Norwich, University of East Anglia, 1987.
  • Denker, E., Whistler and his Circle in Venice, Merrell, 2003.
  • Grieve, Alastair, Whistler's Venice, New Haven and London, 2000.
  • Kennedy, Edward G., The Etched Work of Whistler, New York, 1910 (cat. nos. 183-189, 191-195).
  • Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, chap. 3.
  • Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909 (cat. nos. 180-186, 188-192).
  • MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, Aldershot and California, 2001.
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, II.
  • 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.


  • Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880
  • Etchings and Dry Points, The Union League Club, New York, 1881
  • [Exhibition], Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1881
  • Ausstellung der Maler-Radierungen französischer und englischer Künstler der Neuzeit, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1881
  • Mr Whistler's Etchings, The Fine Art Society, London, 1883
  • 50 Etchings and Drypoints (Venice Second Series), H. Wunderlich and Co., New York, 1883
  • [Exhibition of the First Venice Set], The Fine Art Society, London, 1892.
  • 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
  • International Exhibition, Glasgow Art Galleries, Glasgow, 1901
  • Art and Industrial Exhibition, Wolverhampton, 1902
  • 71st Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1902
  • Exhibition of Etchings by James McNeill Whistler, Obach and Co., London, 1903
  • 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