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The Garden

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 194
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 307 x 240 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 15
Known impressions: 43
Catalogues: K.210; M.207; W.180
Impressions taken from this plate  (43)


Changes to the copper plate for The Garden show that Whistler not only made adjustments to the composition but also considered abandoning the plate. First, he scraped out the figure of a boy sitting on the steps and, simultaneously, reworked the figures, shrubbery and walls within the distant doorway. In the course of re-etching the view in the background, stray drops of acid came in contact with the copper plate, resulting in many prominent spots of foul biting.
The fact that the plate was apparently unprotected by an etching ground in those areas would seem to support Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909)'s recollection that Whistler sometimes rebit specific areas by manipulating acid with a feather, rather than regrounding the entire plate and immersing it in an acid bath. 8

8: Bacher 1908[more], p. 100.

At this point, Whistler apparently began to cancel the plate with a series of diagonal and curved lines that deface parts of the centre of the image. However, he took up the plate again before much time elapsed, as evidenced by the early butterfly on an impression of the next state, with most foul biting and 'cancellation' marks removed (see ).
As work on the plate continued, Whistler employed both etching and drypoint to rebalance the composition by adding a small cat on the steps and redrawing the shrubbery in the background. He also used both techniques when he made a series of changes to the size and positions of the figures within the open doorway.


Two first state proofs of The Garden are printed in black ink on a soft, fibrous, off-white wove paper, possibly Japanese (, ). These were almost certainly printed in Venice - one was acquired there by the young American printer Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909) ().
The Garden was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau with the 'Second Venice Set' in 1886. The record of impressions for this edition lists single impressions delivered on 31 July and 25 August, and two on 20 September 1886; nineteen on 26 February and fifteen on 16 July 1887, a total of 46. 9 Thus the whole edition was printed within a year, remarkably efficiently. By far the majority were printed in dark brown ink on laid paper.

9: Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, GUW #08717.

A third state is on ivory 'modern' (post-1800) laid paper (). Several impressions are on ivory or cream laid paper with an Arms of Amsterdam watermark, including fifth (; ), sixth () and later states (, ). In addition sheets with the Arms of Amsterdam watermark and an 'RK' countermark are used for both fifth () and eleventh states (). This fifth state is also marked by Whistler with an 'x' signifying that it was selected for a particular client or exhibition (). Another late - 15th state - impression has a large 'IV' watermark and was clearly removed from a book (), while a cancelled impression was printed in black ink on ivory laid paper with a Marlowe watermark ().