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The Two Ships

Impression: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Number: 143
Date: 1875
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 207 x 133 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: Fine Art Society
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 17
Catalogues: K.148; M.146; W.116
Impressions taken from this plate  (17)


It is in etching with considerable shading in drypoint, which faded and was renewed as printing continued through five states.


Only single impressions of the first, second and third states have been located . Several impressions of different states - the second, third and fourth - were printed by Whistler in black ink on Japanese paper (, , ).
Wedmore wrote: 'Like Tatting, it failed to please Mr Whistler in the biting or execution, and was saved from destruction by others - whose service to mankind was in this case not considerable. The Messrs Dowdeswell issued it in 1880.' 12

12: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no.116).

Later impressions, from the edition of thirty published by Messrs Dowdeswell in 1880, were printed in black ink, possibly by Frederick Goulding (1842-1909), on a surprising variety of paper including Japanese paper (), off-white wove (), ivory watermarked laid paper (, ) and 'D & C BLAUW' watermarked paper (). Only six impressions from this edition (assuming it to have been the fifth, final state) have been located at this time and it is quite possible that they were not all sold.
These late impressions seem to have been numbered - although this is not certain. For instance, one was numbered 'No. 19' (), another, 'No. 23' () both on the recto. Some numbers have probably been rubbed out, and possibly replaced by the dealer or collector with their own notes.
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) wrote 'Early proof' - mistakenly - on the verso of one final state () and 'Two Ships. / early trial proof' is written on the verso of another final state in the same collection ().