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Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 83
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 120 x 166 mm
Signed: 'Whistler - ' at lower right (1-3); partly removed (4-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: Junior Etching Club, 1862
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 35
Catalogues: K.86; M.87; T.86; W.69
Impressions taken from this plate  (35)


artist, boat, landscape, man, river, rowing boat, sketching, tree.


Several titles appear to have equal validity, for example:

'A River Scene' (1862, Passages from Modern English Poets). 3
'The Thames' (1870s, possibly Whistler). 4
'The Thames' (1881, Union League Club). 5
'Sketching' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 6
'The Thames' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 7
'Sketching, No. 1' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932). 8

The view undoubtedly shows the Thames, and is a river scene, with a figure sketching in the foreground. Thus Wedmore's title 'Sketching' is appropriate.

Kennedy's numbering was intended to distinguish it from another etching done at the same time, also showing an artist at work, which he called 'Sketching, No. 2' (Sketching, No. 2 084).

3: Illustration to C. Mackay's 'A River Scene', Passages from Modern English Poets, London, 1862.

4: Written, possibly by Whistler, on .

5: New York 1881 (cat. no. 97).

6: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 69).

7: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 87).

8: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 86).


A straight stretch of river runs from lower left into the distance at right. On the bank at the right a man wearing a low-crowned dark soft hat and a loose light-coloured coat is seated on a camp-stool, sketching, with his back to the viewer. On the river are a man and a woman in a rowboat. On the other bank is a small boathouse at left. Several tall trees in full leaf stand along the bank. Behind these the ground rises to a low hill, under a cloudy sky.


It has been suggested that the sitter was Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) but this is very likely. An inscription on an impression of Sketching originally owned by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) reads 'figure probably by S.H.' () and this has been misinterpreted as 'figure probably S.H.' 9 Avery or other scholars may have considered that the figure looked like Whistler himself and therefore was drawn by his brother-in-law. However, it is by no means certain that Haden was present. Whistler's companions are known to have been Edwin Edwards (1823-1879) and Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904).

9: Lochnan 1984[more], p. 134.

Edwards included Fantin in Between the Poplars, Sunbury, and Fantin at St George's Hill, while Whistler can be seen in Molesey Lock (Whistler on the gate). 10 Edwards did not include Haden in his views of their sketching trip.

In an earlier etching of the artist at work, Whistler adapted a sketch of his companion Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870) to look more like a self-portrait, and it may be that he followed this practice again.

10: Catalogue of dry points and etchings by Edwin Edwards, cat. nos. 46, 33, 44; Fitzwilliam Museum, P.942-R, P.940-R , P.934-R. Web-page at (accessed 2011).


An impression originally owned by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) bears an inscription reading 'The Thames', which may be by Whistler (). Although it is not entirely certain that this was written by Whistler, it is correct: the view was probably done near Sunbury-on-Thames, where Whistler was visiting Edwin Edwards (1823-1879).


It is related to The Punt 082, then called 'The Angler', which illustrated John Hamilton Reynold's 'The Angler's Soliloquy'. However, in composition it is almost a mirror image of Sketching, No. 2 084, reproduced below, which may also have been intended for the same publication.
Etching: K0870102
Lochnan comments on the style developed in Whistler's landscape etchings:
'The loose, improvisational style of the etchings made during the summer of 1861 demonstrates Whistler's interest in Corot and Daubigny, and his closeness to Haden. The etchings have an animation, freshness and ability to capture light, air and water which is unprecedented in his earlier work.' 11