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The Two Doorways

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 221
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 204 x 296 mm
Signed: butterfly at left (4-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 13
Known impressions: 54
Catalogues: K.193; M.190; W.158
Impressions taken from this plate  (54)


The composition was etched and then developed, changed and reworked through thirteen states in both etching and drypoint - the drypoint being used not only to restore fading lines but also to alter the shadowy figures in the doorway.


Over fifty impressions have been located. One of the first impressions was printed in dark brown ink on 'modern' (post-1800) laid paper with a partial watermark, Strasbourg Lily/VGL in cursive letters (). Another early proof, of the second state, was in black ink on ivory laid paper (). An impression of the fourth state (no impression of the third has been located) was also printed in black, on ivory laid paper from an old book, with binding indents visible at the bottom (). Early proofs were on the whole not trimmed to the platemark, but have a broad margin.

Once Whistler was happy with the etching he printed larger print-runs of the fifth and sixth states. Two are in black ink on Asian wove or Japanese paper (, ). The latter is a particularly dark and powerful impression, the glossy paper shining with a cool greenish cream light. Most are on laid paper (e.g. ). In 1880 or 1881 Whistler was still working on the fifth state, but now trimming the paper to the platemark and signing on a tab with a butterfly and 'imp.' (, ).
Both Whistler and the Fine Art Society kept a record of impressions as they were delivered for the 'First Venice Set'. He delivered nine on 16 February, twelve on 6 April, and four on 25 August 1881; five on 29 January and one on 7 February 1882; one on 9 April, two on 18 April, one on 16 July, twelve on 1 August and two on 8 August 1883; two on 15 February and one on 6 March 1884; and eight on 25 June 1887; three on 13 March and four on 2 April 1889, and several more - possibly six or seven - in 1889. This came to a total of 67 impressions. 13

13: Whistler to FAS, 25 June 1887, GUW #01191; FAS to Whistler, 20 December 1888, #01217.

A good, if sombre impression of the sixth state is in dark brown ink on ivory Japan paper () and an eighth state on ivory 'laid' Japan (). Other later impressions are in dark brown ink on cream laid (); ivory laid Japan (); western ivory laid paper (); ivory laid paper with 'WW' mark (); and cream laid with a Strasbourg Lily watermark (). One is in brown ink on buff Japan paper () and another in very dark brown ink on buff laid paper with a 'PRO PATRIA' watermark ().
A cancelled impression was carefully printed in dark brown ink on cream laid paper with a partial Strasbourg Lily watermark ().