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Whistler with the White Lock

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 162
Date: 1876/1879
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 118 x 80 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 34
Catalogues: K.172; M.169; W.142
Impressions taken from this plate  (34)


Etching: K1720114
Both etching and drypoint were used in development of this plate, with a decided emphasis on the drypoint. Examination under a microscope reveals the etched outlines of the self-portrait. The etched lines are most noticeable (under magnification) around the hairline, the eyes, the chin and among the shading around the shoulder at left. Some etched lines are obscured because of drypoint work on top of them. One impression, reproduced above - possibly the first impression because it still prints with burr - was very thoroughly worked over in pen and wash to suggest how the finished drypoint might work (). This was very skilfully done, probably by Whistler himself. It is signed with a butterfly that appears to date from 1878 or 1879 but is not certainly by Whistler - it is a bit too tidy.


Half of all known impressions are in the set of 'Cancelled Plates' although this particular drypoint does not appear to have been actually cancelled, but just left unfinished.
A few impressions can be traced back to Whistler's time. All are printed in black ink. One prints with a rich burr and was worked over in wash, as mentioned above; it is on ivory laid paper with an Arms of Amsterdam watermark (). Two are on wove paper, the first an early impression preceding the main edition of the album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, in 1879 () and the other also perhaps printed at that time ().
Some of the etchings and drypoints in the surviving sets of the Cancelled Plates are still bound in an album (i.e. ). They are printed in black ink usually on ivory laid paper, sometimes with a watermark, such as the partial watermark, Strasbourg Lily 'VGZ' (i.e. ) or 'Van Gelder' in script (). There was an edition of at least 20 and perhaps about 24 at that time.
Ten years later, in 1889, the copper plate was acquired by H. Wunderlich & Co., New York and printed again in an edition of sixteen, of which seven have been identified. It was printed very carefully and impressions appear stronger than earlier impressions, partly because some of them are on coloured papers.
One that may come from this 1889 edition is on cream Asian laid paper (). A number of impressions are on blue or greenish laid paper (, ), the latter with a partial hunting horn watermark ().
Finally, an impression printed in black ink on grey laid paper with a Pro Patria countermark () was sold by H. Wunderlich & Co. together with one from the fully cancelled plate, printed on pale green paper with the Arms of Colbert watermark, probably in the 1930s. They were given by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971) to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ().