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Custom House

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 179
Date: 1878
Medium: etching
Size: 84 x 190 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 8
Catalogues: K.150; M.148; W.128
Impressions taken from this plate  (8)


Custom House is mainly etching, with some drypoint enriching the sails on the boat to right of centre. The bare outlines of some of the buildings in the distance were filled in with neat horizontal shading (on the Tower of London), and vertical shading (on the Custom House), but this shading was not completed in the area between the Tower and the Custom House. The broken lines and crisp detail have the fresh immediacy of what Wedmore described as 'A riverside sketch, unfinished, with, in the distance - placed beautifully - the four turrets of the White Tower.' 18

18: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 128).


The number of impressions printed was smallThe earliest dated impression (the second proof, dated 7 July 1878) was printed in black ink on ivory laid paper with a watermark or countermark, possibly 'ER' (). Two impressions are in black ink on old paper taken from a ledger, with pen writing on the back (, ). One of these was signed with a butterfly of around 1878/1881 (); the other was not signed by Whistler but was inscribed later with a rather wobbly butterfly by someone else (). Another impression - probably an early one - is in black ink on 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper, very soiled (). None of these were trimmed to the platemark, and all have broad margins.
Several impressions may have been printed later, possibly in 1887 at the request of Messrs Dowdeswell, judging by the pencil butterfly signatures. 19 One is in dark brown ink on buff paper (), the rest in black ink on various laid papers (, , ), one with an Arms of Amsterdam watermark (), and another is on cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper (). All these impressions, which were printed and sold later, were trimmed to the platemark and signed on the tab with a butterfly and 'imp.' to show that Whistler had printed them.

19: 4 February and 28 April 1887, GUW #00888, #13020.