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Landscape with Horses

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 45
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 128 x 205 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower left
Inscribed: '1859.' at lower left
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 32
Catalogues: K.36; M.35; T.23; W.46
Impressions taken from this plate  (32)


children, farm, horse, house, landscape, signpost, tree.


Whistler's own title is not known, and cataloguers used various titles, as follows:

'Paysages à cheval' (1872, British Museum). 1
'Paysage au Cheval' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 2
'The Landscape with the Horse' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 3
'The Meadow' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 4
'Landscape with the Horse' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 5
'Landscape with Horses' (2010, Whistler Etching Project).

Several of the impressions of the first state are annotated with the title 'Paysage au cheval', possibly basing this on Thomas's title. However, there are actually two horses in the final state, not to mention a workman up the pole. 'Landscape with Horses' is therefore the preferred title.

1: B.M. Print Room Register.

2: Thomas 1874[more] (cat. no. 23).

3: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 46).

4: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 35).

5: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 36).


A horse grazes in the middle of a grassy meadow (in the final state there are two horses). In the middle distance at left, a narrow road, with a fence on the far side and a signpost or box on a pole, leads up to a two-storey farmhouse with a lean-to shed, and then, further right, to a low barn and a row of cottages. To the right of the meadow is a path, at the edge of which, in the foreground, appear the head and shoulders of a child wearing a striped bonnet with a ribbon at the back. Behind him, at right, two posts support a frame on which a man is precariously balanced, while another is standing behind it, holding on to the pole on the left. In the far distance two men are walking. There are tall trees in the background at both left and right. The sky is dark with clouds.


Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) noted on his impression, 'Whistler told me that the figures at right were putting up telegraph poles' (). Both men appear to be wearing uniforms, with peaked caps with a rounded crown.
It has been suggested that the child in the foreground is Francis Seymour Haden, Jr (1850-1918), who posed wearing a cap with a ribbon at the back in Seymour 030. 6 However, the cap is definitely not the same - on Seymour's cap the cylindrical sides are encircled with a wide band of ribbons. In Landscape with Horses, the cap has an almost square block-like shape, pulled in at the back by ribbons, which are folded and tied at the nape of the neck.

6: 'Family and Friends', Whistler, Fitzwilliam Museum website, at http:// (accessed 2009).


Someone - not Whistler - wrote on one impression of the first state, 'Paysage a cheval - France.' (). The uniform of the telegraph engineer - the cap in particular - suggest it is in France.
However, it has also been suggested that the scene was etched when Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) visited Whistler in England. Lochnan writes: 'Whistler appears to have made three landscape etchings Greenwich Park, ..., Landscape with the Horse, ... and Nursemaid with Child, ... during Fantin's visit in the summer of 1859'. 7

7: Lochnan 1984[more], p. 76.

The London and District Telegraph Company was formed in 1859 to provide cheap telegraph communication, initially within 6.4 km of the central telegraph office at Charing Cross. This included a complex and not entirely safe system of iron wires supported by telescopic iron masts carried across the London rooftops. 8

8: K. G. Beauchamp, A History of Telegraphy: Its Technology and Applications, 2000, 3.4.3.


Lochnan associates this etching and Nursemaid and Child 042:
'there is a tendency to flatten the image and to experiment with a deliberate naïveté unprecedented in Whistler's earlier work ... influenced by his close association with Legros and his admiration for Courbet's Realism ... Landscape with the Horse is realist in both style and subject ... Men putting up telegraph poles inject a jarring modern note into the rural landscape. ... Whistler's objectivity toward technological encroachments on the countryside would have held greater significance for the realists than nostalgic views of unchanged rural areas.' 9
Lochnan cites a similar subject in a painting by Philippe-Auguste Jeanron (1807-1877), which Whistler probably saw at the Salon in 1857, and which received conflicting reviews. 10 A favourable review of the 1857 Salon stated:

10: Ibid.

'La pose du télégraphe électrique dans les rochers du Pas-de-Calais, est un tableau fait avec plus d’énergie, et dont les qualités sont franches et sérieuses; les ouvriers sont heureusement groupés et bien à leur travail; les visiteurs du Salon s’arrêtent volontiers devant cette toile qui n’est ni trop savante ni trop instructive.' 11
Jules Antoine Castagnary (1830-1888), however, wrote:
'Pourquoi ce télégraphe électrique? Que signifie-t-il, je ne dis pas dans cette toile, mais dans toute toile? Qu'y a-t-il de commun, entre ce fil d'archal, ce produit industriel, utile, et le paysage, recherche et expression du beau dans la nature? Evidemment c'est un non-sens. Si le paysage admettait des fils, ce ne pourrait être que les fils de la vierge.' 12