Home > The Catalogue > Browse > Subjects > Etchings > Etching

Wild West: The Orator

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 294
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 128 x 178 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.313; M.310
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


circus, figure, grandstand, horse, theatre, wild west show.


There are three main variations in the title, as follows:

'Wild West, No. 1' (1887, RBA). 4
'"Wild West" 1' (1887/1888, Whistler). 5
'Wild West The Orator' (1890/1891, Whistler). 6
'The Orator, Wild West Show' (1898, Wunderlich's). 7
'The Wild West – Buffalo Bill' (1903, Wunderlich's). 8
'The Orator; Wild West Show' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 9
'The Orator' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 10
'Wild West, Buffalo Bill' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 11

Whistler's original title was 'Wild West, No. 1' but this could lead to confusion between the main 'Wild West' subjects, particularly The Orator, Buffalo Bill 293. It is presumably for this reason that Whistler later called it 'Wild West The Orator' and this title, with added punctuation, has been preferred, thus becoming 'Wild West: The Orator' .

The association of the show with Buffalo Bill led to Kennedy's adoption of the title 'Wild West, Buffalo Bill' (which might have helped sales), although William Frederick Cody (1846-1917), alias 'Buffalo Bill', is not necessarily in the scene.

4: London RBA 1887-8 (cat. no. 525).

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

6: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

7: New York 1898 (cat. no. 216).

8: New York 1903b (cat. no. 250).

9: Envelope containing copper plate, University of Glasgow.

10: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 310).

11: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 313).


The left half of a large circular arena stretches across the centre. In the left foreground are a woman and a young girl, wearing bonnets, looking into the arena. In the arena, to left, are two rough-riders, facing a horse; to right is the orator, standing on a wooden platform under a bare flagpole; in the background are several mounted horsemen. Bordering the arena, at left, is the tiered grandstand, with two searchlights on the roof and a tall ladder leaning against the right side. In the background there is a scenic backdrop (possibly featuring a stage coach drawn by six horses), above which can be seen the tops of buildings in the distance and clouds in the sky.


The cowboys, and possibly William Frederick Cody (1846-1917), alias 'Buffalo Bill', of the 'Wild West Show' fill the arena.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was held at Earl's-Court, Brompton. There was an exhibition building:
'Such a display of American art has never been brought together in this country ... exhibits [by] Sully, Bierstadt ... Rothermel, Schussele, Sevon, Picknall, Miss Emily Sartain, J. Cropsey, S. H. Parker, Ferris, Newbold Trotter, Peter Moran (etchings), Prosper L. Sinat.' 12
There was an indian village, a cowboy encampment, a popular toboggan slide and a switch railway, as well as the large arena with roofed tiers of seats around a third of its circumference. The grounds were illuminated with lamps and Chinese lanterns by night. There were 28,000 visitors on the first day, 9 May 1887.


This could be considered an extension of Whistler's ongoing interest in the stage and performers of all kinds.