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Booth at a Fair

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 257
Date: 1886
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 133 x 98 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.249; M.245; W.203
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


café, child, drink, fair, food, people, shop, stall.


The title has always remained more or less the same, for example:

'A Booth at a Fair' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Booth at a Fair' (1887, Whistler). 5

Whistler's version, Booth at a Fair, is preferred.

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 203).

5: 27 July 1887, GUW #08677.


A refreshment booth, with tables under an awning supported by poles, appears in the upper part of the plate. The entrance is well lit, and a woman stands at left, bending over the table with a tray of food and drink. Inside, to the right, are two people sitting in deep shadow, and outside, to their right, there are two women standing. Nearer to the viewer, at right, stands a child looking at the booth.


According to Wedmore, writing in 1886, 'In the upper part of the plate is seen a canvas-covered booth, at a French country fair.' 6 Wedmore consulted the artist in July 1886 about his catalogue of Whistler's etchings, writing: 'now that I know your Etchings, I feel their quality very fully. The best will live with the best of Rembrandt's.' 7 Wedmore may have obtained information on the site from Whistler shortly after that.

6: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 203).

7: 10 July 1886, GUW #06290.


This is one of two 'booths' etched by Whistler, the other being Booth, Market Place, Loches 425. Both 'booth' subjects were listed by Whistler and his wife. 8 In both cases the 'booth' is a table sheltered by an awning, selling food, either to carry-out or sit down and eat in a fairly basic environment.

8: Whistler, list, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233; B. Whistler, 1890/1892, #12715.

This is also one of many compositions in which the emphasis is on a shaded space, doorway or other shadowed area, as for example in The Smithy 239, The Village Sweet Shop 266, Cottage Door 252, Railway Arch, American Square 316, Melon Shop, Houndsditch 355 and Double Doorway, Sandwich 322.