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Quiet Canal

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 224
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 229 x 154 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 35
Catalogues: K.214; M.211; W.184
Impressions taken from this plate  (35)


Quiet Canal was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) with A Set of Twenty-six Etchings (the 'Second Venice Set') in 1886.
Whistler delivered in all 1093 prints and was paid £2.10.6 for printing each dozen prints. 10

10: Dowdeswell to Whistler, invoice 16 July 1887, GUW #00891.


It was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society, London in 1883, before being published in the 'Second Venice Set', by Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) in 1886. In the catalogue designed by Whistler for the 1883 show, Quiet Canal was illustrated by two earlier cryptic press-reviews:
' "Herr Whistler stellt ganz wunderbare Productionen aus, die auf Gesetze der Form und der Farbe gegründet scheinen, die dem Uneingeweihten unverständlich sind." - Wiener Presse.
"This new manner of Mr Whistler's is no improvement upon that which helped him to win his fame in this field of art."' 11
The first excerpt comes from a review of the Grosvenor Gallery, to which Whistler sent Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander y129 in 1881. It translates roughly as 'Mr Whistler exhibits completely marvelous productions, which seem to be created based on laws of form and colour, which are incomprehensible to the uninitiated.' 12

Although it received few critical mentions in February 1883, the Saturday Review thought it 'extremely pretty' and the Daily News commented that among works that 'will be, or should be, admired ... [is] the "Quiet Canal" with the exquisite curves of the canal and ripple of the water'. 13

Other print dealers' shows included H. Wunderlich & Co., New York in 1883, 1898, and twice in 1903; Obach & Co., London, in 1903; and F. Keppel & Co., New York, in 1902. 14 Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (). 15 Another was shown at the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901, lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901). 16

After Whistler's death, one impression was exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the London Memorial Exhibition in 1905. 17

12: Unidentified review, labelled 'Die Wiener Presse', 26 May 1881 (GUL PC15 p. 43).

13: Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Etchings,' Daily News, 20 February 1883; 'Mr. Whistler's Exhibition,' Saturday Review, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/20, 32).


15: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. E164).

16: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 226).

17: New York 1904a (cat. no. 186); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 184).


Most impressions were sold through the publishers, Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau. A complete set was given by them to the British Museum in 1887 (). Thibaudeau sold another complete album to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York in May 1888, and this etching was among those sold to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) in 1890 (). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought one from Frederick Keppel & Co. in 1887 ().
At auction it fetched quite low prices. At Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 183) 'Quiet Canal' was sold to 'McGrath' for £1.16.0. At Sotheby's, a few years later, an impression from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was sold on 3 March 1892 (lot 279) to Thomas Way (1837-1915) for £4.0.0. He sold it many years later, in 1905, to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (, ).
Whistler himself sold an impression on 10 April 1893 to Wunderlich's for what was an unusually low price (for him) £2.2.0, presumably after their discount. 18 He also sold an impression a few days later, on 18 April to the Fine Art Society, London for £5.5.0 19

Early collectors included George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (); Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (); Susan Dwight Bliss (1882-1966) (); Thomas Jefferson Coolidge jr (1863-1912) and W. B. Dickerman (1846-1923) (); Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (); and Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) (). Obach & Co., London sold an impression to the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, for £9.0.0. on 10 May 1902 ().

18: Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) to Whistler, 10 April 1893, GUW #07214.

19: F.A.S. to Whistler, GUW #01259.