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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)


barrel, river, sailors, sailing ship, warehouse, ship, worker.


There are several variations in the title, as follows:

'Liverpool' (1870s, Whistler). 4
'Leylands steamer' (1877, Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890)). 5
'Shipping' (Union League Club, 1881). 6
'Shipping at Liverpool' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 7

Whistler's note on an impression of this etching might be considered a place name rather than a title. Howell may have made an assumption that any etching of ships in Liverpool was connected to the shipping line of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892).

4: Written on .

5: C. A. Howell to Whistler, 6-15 November 1877, GUW #02178.

6: New York 1881 (cat. no. 112).

7: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 84).

'Shipping at Liverpool' is a descriptive title that differentiates this from other etchings and has been generally accepted.


A view drawn on board a ship, looking towards the stern and showing its mast and stays, and shipping moored in the distance. There are four men working on the ship in the foreground; a man on the left is moving a bulky, shapeless block, while in the centre, a man is kneeling on all fours.


Whistler wrote 'Liverpool' on one impression in the 1870s (). The shipping was probably moored in Liverpool docks, from whence Whistler's mother sailed on the SS Java on 22 June 1867.
The SS Java was a 2,696 gross tons, 337.1ft x 42.9ft, vessel built in 1865 by J. and G. Thomson & Co. of Govan. She is described as having a clipper stern, one funnel and three masts. She was later sold to the Red Star Line and renamed the Zeeland. 8

Whistler's links to Liverpool, apart from as a port of transit to America, started in 1867 when Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), commissioned him to paint The Three Girls y088. On 8 October 1867 he wrote to Leyland: 'What a jolly country house yours must be - and the Gallery 30 feet high! - One of these days I hope to see it - ' 9 This makes it clear that at that point he had not seen Leyland's house at Speke Hall, near Liverpool, but was fishing for an invitation. Whistler and his mother probably first visited Speke in September 1869.

8: Ted Finch, on the Emigration-Ships Mailing List, 19 June 1997, at (accessed 2007.12.4).

9: Whistler to F. R. Leyland, [8 October 1867], GUW #08795; see also A. M. Whistler to M. G. Hill, [8-10] September [1870], #07642.