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Whistler's Mother

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 103
Date: 1871
Medium: drypoint
Size: 256 x 156 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 20
Catalogues: K.97; M.99; W.88
Impressions taken from this plate  (20)


Wedmore described it as 'a slight but exquisite dry-point, full of refined and tender expression.' 6

Sketched with long drypoint lines, the unique impression of the first state shows the figure unfinished, but the shape of the dress and shady background is suggested by an area of roughly wiped ink tone. Mansfield commented 'The slenderness of the figure is obscured by the peculiar inking of the plate, which gives the appearance of a full skirt.' 7

6: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 88).

7: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 99).


The unique first state was printed in black ink on cream 'modern' (post-1800) laid paper (). The plate was inked only over the lines of the subject and on the upper half of the plate, which was then selectively wiped, rather cleanly, across the torso, head and top third of the plate. Much heavier ink was left over the skirt area; suggesting the solidity of the dress.
It was published in an album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, London, 1879, probably in an edition of about twenty. The cancelled impressions were printed in black ink, sometimes on cream or ivory 'modern' laid paper, with a 'Van Gelder' watermark (, ) or medium-weight ivory laid paper with Strasbourg Lily and 'VGZ' watermark ().