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The Little Pool

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 79
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 104 x 127 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at right centre
Inscribed: '1861 -' at lower left (1-8); 'The Works of James Whistler : Etchings and Dry Points, are on View at E. Thomas' Publisher. / 39. Old Bond Street.' across the bottom (1-8); erased (9)
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 9
Known impressions: 76
Catalogues: K.74; M.73; T.48; W.72
Impressions taken from this plate  (76)


This is a combination of etching and drypoint, with considerable texture from foul biting. Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876), who was present during the development of this etching, recorded:
'This plate, which promised to be one of the most exquisite and interesting etchings of the artist, was unfortunately not varnished sufficiently, consequently the biting in took place all over the plate and so spoiled it that it was sent to have the spots taken out, which was done (first state only one printed), but the rest of the plate was taken out as well. The artist made various efforts to restore his work, which occasioned several proofs to be taken, thus making various states, but only about one was taken after each alteration except the last.' 15


There was an extensive print-run of this etching. Early impressions were printed in dark brown ink on grey laid paper () and in black ink on various papers: a medium-weight ivory laid paper with a partial watermark, possibly '[HUDE]LIST' () and several on medium-weight 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper (, , , , ).
Impressions of the fourth state were printed in black ink on ivory wove paper, including one still bearing the ink numbering for pages '331' and '332' from an old ledger (), and another on machine-made wove paper (, ). These were followed by proofs of the next four states on various papers - a fifth state in black ink on off-white paper, possibly wove proofing paper (), sixth and seventh states on laid Asian paper in black (, ) and an eighth state in brown ink on light buff paper, again, possibly wove ().
Most ninth state impressions, as published with the 'Thames Set', are in black ink on laid papers. One, in black ink on dark ivory laid paper, was sold by the publishers Messrs Ellis & Green on 26 May 1871 (). Many impressions of this final state are on paper with the beehive ('DEDB') watermark (, , , ) and 'modern' (post-1800) ivory laid with 'DE ERVEN DE BLAUW' watermark (). Others are on a variety of papers: thin light-weight ivory laid (, ); dark ivory laid (); 'modern' laid with Strasbourg Lily watermark () and 'KF' countermark (); and off-white light-weight laid with Arms of Burgundy watermark (). Some are on wove paper, including a heavy-weight ivory wove ().
Others are on Asian papers including an impression on soft, medium-weight ivory Japanese laid paper, which was probably among the late impressions printed for F. Keppel & Co. (). One is from a complete 'Thames Set' printed on cream Asian paper (). Another, which is signed by Frederick Goulding (1842-1909), and was almost certainly printed by him, is in black ink on thick pale cream Japan ().
Cancelled impressions were printed in black ink, one on ivory 'modern' laid paper taken from a book () and others on soft white laid paper (, ).