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Speke Hall: The Avenue

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 101
Date: 1870-1878
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 228 x 152 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right (1-12); butterfly lower left (11-12); both removed (13-final)
Inscribed: '1870. / Speke Hall.' at lower right
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 14
Known impressions: 22
Catalogues: K.96; M.95; W.86
Impressions taken from this plate  (22)


This etching is distinguished by the complete separation of technique between the foreground and background - the foreground figure being entirely in drypoint, and the background mostly in etching, though with additional shading and details in drypoint in later states.
Whistler retained a fragment - the top half - of one impression - did he cut off the bottom half because he was not satisfied with it? or was that particular impression damaged? ().


This etching was worked and re-worked by Whistler over several years, presumably on his visits to Speke Hall, and later in his London studio. The earliest possible date is 1870, the last may be 14 August 1879, when Whistler recorded printing one impression. 14

14: List, 14 August 1879, GUW #13019.

The woman was drawn in drypoint, and was radically re-drawn several times, partly to reflect different fashions between 1870 and 1875 or 1876.
As many as thirty impressions may have been printed. The majority were printed in black ink on laid - often 'antique' (pre-1800) - papers, and certain watermarked papers were used at different stages during the process of revising and printing the etching. The first state was printed in black ink on medium-weight laid paper with 'De Erven De Blauw' watermark (). Several later impressions - a second, fourth and sixth state - were also printed on paper with this watermark (, , ).
One fine impression of the second state is in black ink on Japanese paper () and a fifth on cream Asian laid (), but Asian papers are in the minority for this etching.
A third state in black ink is on 'antique' laid paper bearing an 'IV' countermark that was removed from a book - the ink of an old index actually shows through the paper - (); and two much later (ninth state) impressions are on similar countermarked paper (, ). Impressions of both the sixth and seventh states are on ivory laid paper with a hunting horn watermark (, ), the latter having a Latin note on the verso ().
An impression of the ninth state heavily worked over in wash was printed in black ink on medium-weight 'antique' ivory laid paper (). A superb dark brown ink impression of the seventh state and a later (12th) state are on ivory laid paper with an Arms of Amsterdam watermark (, ). Other late (11th) states are on ivory 'antique' laid paper with the 'Pro Patria' watermark () and an off-white paper with 'C & I Honig' watermark (). Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) said of one of the later (11th) states, 'Figure changed and work added 1870' () but since the plate at that point was signed with a butterfly dating from about 1878 he was obviously mistaken.
Impressions vary in effect, depending on the freshness of the drypoint - so that some impressions of the second state, for instance, seem much softer than others (), and the fresh burr gives a rich, lustrous effect in some impressions of much later states (, ).