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The Little Forge, Liverpool

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 141
Date: 1875
Medium: drypoint
Size: 228 x 152 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (8); removed (9); butterfly at lower left (10-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 16
Known impressions: 19
Catalogues: K.147; M.145; W.115
Impressions taken from this plate  (19)


The Little Forge, Liverpool was not published.


Whistler thought highly of this composition, and exhibited it at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1879. 8

Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent an impression to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 ( or ). 9 Another major collector, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) lent an impression to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (). 10 A late impression, exhibited by Obach & Co. in London in 1903, was either a final state sold by that firm to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) () in 1906 or an earlier impression sold to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, in 1907, for £40 ().

Impressions were shown in the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. Two different states were exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, an early state lent by Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) () and a later one by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (). 11

A particularly interesting worked proof from the Royal Collection, Windsor, reproduced below, was included in the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905, sold soon after through Messrs Agnews, and possibly exhibited a few years later by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co. in New York (). 12

8: London Grosvenor 1879 (cat. no. 269) 'The Little Forge'. See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

9: New York 1881 (cat. no. 134).

10: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 103).

11: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 116a,b,c) ; Boston 1904 (cat. nos. 86, 87).

12: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 115); New York 1909 (cat. no. 63).

Etching: K1470z03


Two impressions of 'The Forge' - probably The Little Forge, Liverpool - were sold by Whistler to Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) on 11 November 1877 for £6.6.0. 13 An impression was among 'thirteen more beautiful proofs' sent by Whistler to Alfred Chapman (1839-1917) on 9 August 1878, 'The little Forge' was priced at £6.6.0 and that seems to have remained its price in the 1880s. 14

Whistler signed some impressions about 1886 (, ), presumably for sale. He sold impressions on 1 November 1886 to the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), and on 28 April 1887 and 21 January 1889 to Walter Dowdeswell (1858-1929). 15 Dowdeswell sold one - a final state - to John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908), and it was later sold through Obach & Co. to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) ().

13: Howell's a/c, [6-25 November 1877], GUW #02178.

14: GUW #07966.

15: GUW #13010, #13020, #13030.

Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) had accumulated four impressions, representing different states. After his death they were sold at Sotheby's. 16 The first was a 'proof before the monogram, printed by the artist' and bought by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) for £4.4.0. It is interesting that Haden was still buying Whistler's etchings long after the brothers-in-law had quarrelled. The second, 'with monogram, printed by the artist' was bought by 'Harrington', probably Henry Nazeby Harrington (1862-1937), for £2.15.0. The third, 'with monogram in pencil', was bought by Thomas Way (1837-1915) for £4.10.0 and sold later, in 1905, to C.L. Freer (); this joined the fourth of Hutchinson's drypoints, originally signed about 1879, and bought in 1892 by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) for £1.15.0 and immediately sold on to Freer (). The latter had also been marked with an 'x' by Whistler to indicate it was selected, possibly for exhibition.

16: Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lots 157, 158, 159, 160).

Early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who bought two impressions, the first proof (), which was signed by Whistler about 1874/1875) and a twelfth state (); Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (); and Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (). Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) owned a fourth state, which was sold through H. Wunderlich & Co. and later bought by Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) and Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who bequeathed it to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (). Obach & Co. sold one to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, in 1907 for £40 ().
A fine impression from the Royal Collection, already mentioned, was acquired by the Dundee jute manufacturer , a friend of Frances Leyland (1834-1910) and family of Speke Hall (). Caird took the Leyland ladies and friends on an excursion by Pullman to the Scottish Highlands in 1876, and it is possible that this Liverpool connection aroused Caird's interest in the drypoint. 17 This print was given by Caird to the McManus Art Galleries and Museum, Dundee in 1914. There it was joined by a later impression bequeathed by James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888), to the Orchar Gallery, Broughty Ferry, in 1898, and transferred to the McManus Art Galleries in 1987 ().

17: See Howard Geddes, 'A Peripatetic Picnic of August 1876', Highland Railway Journal, No. 103, Autumn 2012, pp. 4-12. Our thanks to John MacDonald for this reference.