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Little Putney Bridge

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 186
Date: 1879
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 132 x 207 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right (2-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: Printseller's Association, 1879; F. Wedmore, 1883
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 56
Catalogues: K.179; M.176; W.146
Impressions taken from this plate  (56)


This etching was done on a plate on which there had been an earlier landscape, possibly showing a farm and oasthouses. Once this earlier composition had been removed, a few additions such as the signature, clouds, a boat and some foliage were added in drypoint, and then were removed, or, in the case of the butterfly, faded quickly.


It is rather difficult to distinguish the arrangements by the Fine Art Society for printing Old Putney Bridge 185 and Little Putney Bridge, both of which were apparently issued in the same year, 1879.
After printing a proof of the first state (), Whistler published a few impressions of the second state through the Printsellers' Association, (i.e. ). He then printed a few more impressions of a third () and fourth () state. At least five impressions were definitely printed on 14 August 1879. 7

7: Whistler, list, 14-15 August 1879, GUW #13019.

Early states were printed in black ink on various papers including cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid (); off-white paper, possibly from a ledger, with ruled lines (); ivory laid paper () and laid paper with a watermark of a cross in a shield (). Most are in black ink but one fourth state is in dark brown ink on burnished ivory 'antique' laid paper (). Most fourth state impressions were printed in black ink, on a variety of 'modern' and 'antique' papers. These include several watermarked laid papers: Strasbourg Lily (), 'GR' countermark (), and crown with 'GR' ().
Late impressions with a very faint butterfly were still printed in black ink on various papers including tan Japanese paper (, ), laid paper watermarked '1814 / 2' () and a few unusual papers including heavy-weight ivory wove () and pale green paper with the watermark 'ENGLAND' ().
One impression is on cream laid paper with the splendid watermark of the royal coat of arms and motto 'HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE' (). This watermark is seen on another etching of this date, Hurlingham 184, suggesting they were printed at the same time (). The bunch of grapes watermark seen on two impressions of Little Putney Bridge (, ) is also found on two impressions of Hurlingham 184 (, ).
The main print-run of Little Putney Bridge was for publication in 1883, by which time the butterfly signature had faded badly. The size of this edition is not known. There are over 40 impressions of this final state in public collections. As published by Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921) in 1883, it was usually printed in black ink on wove paper (i.e. ).