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Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 48
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 128 x 204 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right
Inscribed: '1859' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 82
Catalogues: K.40; M.39; T.39; W.37
Impressions taken from this plate  (82)


The first state of Limehouse was done in pure etching, with drypoint added in the second state. The manipulation of areas of foul biting is a prominent feature of the technique, adding texture and variety to the barges and buildings at right. The textures distinguish different areas of space as well as differentiating building from sky, boat from water. Thus the foreground is deeply etched, with noticeable foul biting, somewhat manipulated, while the middle distance has a more overall, hazy, flecking.
Two early impressions are on unusual grey paper (, ), and one of the third state on buff laid paper (). Combined with the varied grain produced by the foul biting (acid marks, burnishing, scrim marks, and irregular textures), these coloured papers emphasize the strongly textured effect. The contrast between this grainy foreground, the finely detailed middle ground, and light, linear background, produces a dramatic feeling of depth and rather murky atmosphere.


Some early proofs of Limehouse were sold or given to family and friends. For instance, one was given by Whistler's mother to Mrs T. H. Riches (dates unknown) ().
About 1862, Whistler recorded either the number of impressions printed, or more likely the number of impressions of some etchings in stock: 'Limehouse 10. / Tunnel pier 2. / Black Lion 8. / Graveur - 2 / Thames Police. 20 / Tyzack 5'. 17

17: [May 1862/1864?], GUW #12745, p. 38.

Whistler's definition of states was not always the same as that used by later cataloguers. He probably made a distinction between the first working proofs and states. An impression of the third state sold to the British Museum in 1863 was annotated '2nd state -' () and one sold to William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) in the 1870s, '1st state.' (). Whistler was hardly likely to remember the exact details of states, years after they were originally printed. In any case, he may have wished to enhance the value of impressions by suggesting that they were both early and rare.
No impression of the first state of Limehouse has been located; one of the second state was printed in black ink on light grey China laid paper (). Impressions of the third state were sold in 1861 () and 1863 (). They are printed in black ink, on ivory chine appliqué (, ), thick off-white (almost blue) laid paper (), beige 'modern' (post-1800) laid () and tan laid paper with a crowned shield watermark (). They were also sometimes on Asian paper (, , ).
An impression of the fourth state was sold by Whistler in 1863, marked '2nd state - ' (). The etching was published in this state in 1871. A good proportion of impressions from the published state were printed in black ink on laid paper, frequently with the 'DE ERVEN DE BLAUW' (, , , ) and beehive watermark (, ). One impression of this fifth state, with the beehive watermark, was in the set acquired by Constantine Alexander Ionides (1833-1900) in 1871 ()
After the original edition of the 'Thames Set', the plates were acquired by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., the steel facing was removed and the plate were re-printed. Impressions are in black ink on various papers, including cream Japanese 'laid' paper (, ) and ivory 'antique' laid paper with 'GR' wreath and crown watermark (). The latter was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) from H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1888.
In May 1894 Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) printed a 'Proof from Copper surface - previous to re-steeling - May 1894' in black ink on ivory 'antique' laid paper (). The plate was cancelled in 1894 or 1895. A proof from the cancelled plate printed in black ink on 'modern' laid paper (), as well as the plate itself, were sold in January 1896, by F. Keppel & Co. to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919).