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Old Westminster Bridge

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 47
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 76 x 204 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower left
Inscribed: '1859' at lower left
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 75
Catalogues: K.39; M.38; T.36; W.36
Impressions taken from this plate  (75)


According to Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921), 'The beautiful First State has four tiny horizontal lines just above the roof of the Houses of Parliament to the right of the towers. It is extremely rare. / The second State has lost all delicacy and harmony, and is abrupt and dry.' 14

14: Wedmore 1886 A[more], cat. no. 36.

Whistler was quite aware of the warmth of texture and colour provided by the burr of the drypoint when printed on fine Japanese tissue. He annotated an impression for William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) 'Early proof with burr - ' (). However, Whistler seems to have had some trouble controlling the plate - or perhaps in attempting to accentuate the burr with retroussage - for two of the early impressions have blurred lines at the right (, ). He also used foul biting to emphasize the solidity of the boat.


The unique first state was printed in black ink on cream 'modern' (post-1800) laid paper with a 'KFR' watermark (). A dozen impressions of the second state are known, followed by near thirty of the third state, as published with the 'Thames Set', a couple of the fourth state, and three cancelled impressions.
The second state was printed mostly in black ink, on various papers, including cream Japanese laid paper (, ); ivory chine appliqué (); dark ivory laid with Strasbourg Lily watermark (), cream () and ivory laid (, ).
In the third state it was published in the 'Thames Set' mostly on laid De Erven De Blauw watermarked paper (, , , , ) and ivory laid paper with the variation, DEDB and beehive watermark (, ).
Other later impressions are on a variety of papers including ivory laid 'J.L. Bouchet' watermarked paper (); ivory 'modern' laid with another coat of arms watermark, showing three five-pointed stars on a shield (); cream 'antique' laid paper from a ledger, watermarked with a bunch of grapes (); ivory 'modern' laid (); dark cream Japan (); and chine collé ().
An impression was printed by Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) in May 1894, to show the condition of the copper plate at that time. It is in black ink on ivory laid paper with a complex watermark, Strasbourg Lilies in a coat of arms with a laurel wreath ().The plate was cancelled shortly after this, in 1894 or 1895. Cancelled impressions are on ivory 'modern' laid paper (i.e. , ).