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Riault (The Wood Engraver)

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 69
Date: 1860
Medium: drypoint
Size: 230 x 154 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right
Inscribed: '1860.' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 22
Catalogues: K.65; M.65; T.58; W.62
Impressions taken from this plate  (22)


It was published in an album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, London, 1879.


It was first exhibited in 1874, both at Whistler's one-man exhibition in London, and with the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) in a travelling show in Liverpool and elsewhere (). 17

A few years later, Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent an impression - a 'Superb proof' according to the catalogue - to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (). 18

Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) helped select exhibits, including 'Riault', for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 19 He lent his own impression to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 () and to the Whistler Memorial show in Boston in 1904. 20 Two states were exhibited by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 and bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (, ). 21

Finally impressions were shown at the principal Memorial Exhibitions including the Grolier Club, New York in 1904 and London Memorial Exhibition in 1905. 22

17: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 484); see REFERENCES; EXHIBITIONS.

18: New York 1881 (cat. no. 88).

19: 10 January 1893, GUW #04000.

20: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 57); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 55).

21: New York 1898 (cat. no. 59).

22: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 63a,b); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 62)


The British Museum was the first collection to acquire an impression, in 1872 (). H. Stewart Cundell commented:
'Of all artists who in recent years have expressed themselves with the [etching] point, no one has done so more successfully then Mr Whistler. His theory of etching we take to be that a man should put his thoughts upon copper just as he would upon canvas, should paint, in fact, with the etching needle, with a deliberate choice of that method of expression. Some of his first works may be seen in the scanty collection of modern etchings in the British Museum. Among them ... A characteristic likeness of himself and a most vigorous head of M. Riault show what etching can do in the way of portraiture.' 23
According to Wedmore, 'The impression bought by Palmer for 4l. 4s. at the Anderson Rose Sale is that which is now owned by Mr. Avery.' 24 Whistler signed this impression around 1873 or 1874 (); it was exhibited in 1874 in Liverpool with the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), and sold at auction in 1876; it was, as Wedmore stated, acquired by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who eventually left it with the rest of his collection to form the core of the print collection on New York Public Library.

24: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 62).

Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought two good impressions in 1898, one of the first and one of the second state, from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), through H. Wunderlich & Co., New York (, ).
In 1890 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) told Whistler of the visit of Louis Alexander Fagan (1845-1903) to New York, where he compared Whistler and Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681):
'As Mr. Fagan put it, while Rembrandt is the Dutch King of Etchers you are the American President of Etchers. ...It was a disappointment, however, that you were not properly represented in the examples shown on the screen from photographs of your etchings. Only "The Kitchen" and "Riault" were shown besides a number of the Thames views.' At that time Mansfield still did not own an impression of Riault's portrait. 25
However, by 1902, Mansfield owned one (), and wrote to Whistler:
'Sometime ago I was persuaded, after more or less resistance on my part, to sit for a photograph. The photographer - [Gertrude Stanton Käsebier (1852-1934)], who believes in photography as an art - asked leave to picture me doing something which I like to do. Nothing more delightful than looking at prints occurred to me, and no print could be thought of which it gives me more pleasure to look at than your dry-point of "The Engraver", which happens to be my most valued acquisition of recent years. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of sending you a copy of the result.' 26
Surviving impressions from the cancelled plate are often in the album as published in 1879. For instance, the British Museum bought an album in 1887 (), as did Thomas Glen Arthur (1858-1907) (). George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) bought a set () as did Boston Public Library (). Freer bought a set from Knoedler & Co. in 1893 (). Another set, acquired by J. Littauer (fl. 1896), Munich, was sold to the Hamburger Kunsthalle in 1896 ().
Prices were low but collectors and collections were keen to have the set of cancelled etchings, as a record of a substantial number of otherwise unrecorded etchings and drypoints. A set, probably acquired from the Fine Art Society by Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892), was auctioned in 1889 and bought by the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for £0.6.0. 27 Dunthorne exchanged it for other works with Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) who bequeathed it to the University of Glasgow (see ). She acquired another set, trimmed the impressions and stuck them on the envelopes containing the copper plates (i.e. ).

27: Sotheby's, London, 13 December 1889 (lot 787 or 789)