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Shipping at Liverpool

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 100
Date: 1867
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 231 x 155 mm
Signed: 'Whistler -' at lower right
Inscribed: '1867 -' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 22
Catalogues: K.94; M.94; W.84
Impressions taken from this plate  (22)
Etching: PK094_01
Recto, above; verso, below:
Etching: PK094_02
The copper plate bears the stamp of 'B. MAIRE / PLANEUR A PARIS'. This stamp has been found on only seven extant copper plates: Shipping at Liverpool, Sketches of Heads 138, Speke Shore 139, Battersea Morn 174, Greenhithe 173, Lindsey Houses 161 and Irving as Philip of Spain, No. 2 159. The size of these copper plates ranges from Battersea Morn 174 at 150 x 225 mm to Shipping at Liverpool at 231 x 155 mm. Of these, Shipping at Liverpool is the earliest firmly dated plate.
Whistler went back to Liverpool several times, to visit Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892) and family at Speke Hall. He took copper plates with him from London, or had some sent from his studio, or direct from Paris. Speke Shore and Speke Hall: The Avenue 101 can be dated stylistically between 1870 and 1873. Sketch of heads may also have been drawn at Speke Hall, possibly in 1870. On the other hand, The Thames towards Erith and Battersea: Dawn were both Thames subjects dating from 1875/1876.
Whistler could have bought several almost identical copper plates at the same time in Paris or later. Proof that he dealt with the Paris firm of B. Maire is found in a letter written from Speke Hall to Auguste Delātre (1822-1907), in January 1873 : 'Je compte vous rapporter pas mal de planches ą mon retour - J'en ai pris chez Hughes et Kimber en attendant les autres de chez Maire ' (Translated: 'I hope to bring you numbers of plates on my return - I got some at Hughes and Kimber while waiting for the others from Maire's'). 10
Size alone is no indicator of the maker of these copper plates: the actual size of Shipping at Liverpool is similar to plates bought from Hughes & Kimber in the 1860s and used for several etchings including Brushing the Hair 094.
The verso of Shipping at Liverpool shows vigorous hammer-marks, used when Whistler was trying to revise the plate, which show right through on the recto. It was cancelled with multiple crossed diagonal lines across the top third of the plate.
The cancelled copper plate was probably among plates bought at Whistler's bankruptcy sale by the Fine Art Society, London. It was published in the set of Cancelled Plates by the F.A.S. in 1879.
The copper plate was probably among those acquired from Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), in exchange for lithographs. 11 The plate was later given by Miss Philip to the University of Glasgow in 1935.

11: Note by R. Birnie Philip, inserted in the album, Hunterian Art Gallery.