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Railway Arch, American Square

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 316
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 70 x 163 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 8
Catalogues: K.268; M.264; W.218
Impressions taken from this plate  (8)


arch, bridge, city, lamp, , people, railway, square, street.


The main variations on the title are as follows:

'Railway Arch. American Square' (1887/1888, Whistler). 2
'Railway Arch' (1889, Whistler). 3
'Railway Arch - America Square' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 4
'Railway Arch' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
'The Railway-Arch' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

Whistler's title, 'Railway Arch, American Square' (with altered punctuation) is preferable to later versions.

2: List, [1887/1888], GUW #13233.

3: List, 18 July 1889, GUW #13235.

4: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

5: Wedmore 1899[more] (cat. no. 218).

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 264).


An obelisk supporting two lanterns stands in the square in front of a broad dark archway leading under a railway station. Either side of the arch, there are traces of shops or store-houses in the high wall of the station, and projecting from the wall, at the left, is a small derrick or crane. There are people in the archway and in the square.


Etching: c_K268_01
Railway Arch, American Square, London, 2010.
Photograph © M.F. MacDonald, Whistler Etchings Project.
Vine Street leads to America Square in London E.C.3. The square adjoins Fenchurch Street Station and is near Tower Hill. Fenchurch Street was the terminus of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, and was used by the Great Eastern Railway. The original station was built in 1841 and rebuilt in 1854 following a design by George Berkeley. It was remodelled in 1935 and offices were built over the concourse in the 1980s. It now looks very drab and bleak.
Henry Mayhew described the City squares:
'those intensely quiet places immured in the very centre of London, which seem as still and desolate as cloisters ...To this class belong Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate; Bridgewater Square, Barbican; America Square, Minories; Wellclose Square, London Docks; Trinity Square, Tower; Nelson Square, Blackfriars; Warwick Square, Newgate Street; and Gough and Salisbury Squares, Fleet Street; though many of these are but the mere bald "places" of the continent.' 7


This is one of several railway subjects, including Charing Cross Bridge 348 and Railway-Station, Voves 387.