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Salute Dawn

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 207
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 127 x 204 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 32
Catalogues: K.215; M.212; W.185
Impressions taken from this plate  (32)


Whistler began Salute Dawn in pure etching and added only small touches of drypoint to the plate to indicate clouds, ripples on the water and the reflections of the sailing boat and buildings. He also reduced the original composition to a band of buildings and masts along the horizon by scraping out the gondola that had been included in the original etched version.
The copper plate for Salute Dawn was subjected to both accidental acid spills and corrosion, resulting in foul biting, as well as a number of surface scratches. The worst defects were removed during the course of the plate's development, but small pits of corrosion and one short, prominent scratch are visible on the latest impressions pulled.


The impression of Salute Dawn inscribed in pencil by the artist, '1st proof -' was printed in black ink on cream Japanese paper (). The inscription was added later but this undoubtedly is a working proof of the first state. A proof inscribed 'Second state' was printed with uneven wet tone in black ink on Asian paper, but has not been located (). 11

Third states - that is, impressions that were printed before publication in 1886 - include impressions in brown ink on cream () and ivory laid paper (), and in black ink on ivory laid paper (), plus one in greenish black ink on 'antique' (pre-1800) ivory laid paper ().

11: American Art Association, Masterpieces of Engraving and Etching ... Collection of Henry Graves, Jr., New York City, Anderson Art Galleries, New York, 3 April 1936 (lot. no. 84).

Salute Dawn was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau with the Twenty-six Etchings or the 'Second Venice Set' in 1886. An impression of the fourth state was printed by Émile Frédéric Salmon (1840-1913) () in black ink on cream Japan paper; it is a clear but pale impression. However, Whistler then decided to print the set himself, achieving a range of effects, from a pale, misty dawn to dramatic sunrise.
The record of impressions of Salute Dawn for this edition lists three delivered on 22 July and fourteen on 6 October 1886; and twenty on 15 January 1887, a total of 37. 12

Some impressions were printed in black ink on ivory laid western paper () and tan Asian laid (). Many are in dark brown ink, on papers including ivory Japanese () and buff Japanese laid () and various western laid papers: buff (, , ) and ivory (, ), ivory with the watermark of a Strasbourg Lily over 'LVG' (), 'antique' laid (, ), and a light-weight cream laid paper ().

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

Most of these impressions of the fourth, published, state, were trimmed to the platemark and signed on a tab with the butterfly and 'imp.' to show that Whistler had printed them. However several were neither trimmed exactly nor signed (, ), including, naturally, the impression printed by Salmon (). Others were inexpertly trimmed and signed by someone else (, , , , ) including the impression reproduced below.
Etching: K2150415
This suggests that someone else - possibly Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938) - was helping to print, trim and sign these impressions. This particular impression was on off-white laid paper removed from a book, with sewing holes visible, and was printed in brown ink with delicate surface tone, wiped first vertically and then horizontally, leaving darker areas at the top and bottom, and creating a rich glow (). It was almost certainly printed under Whistler's supervision or at least approved by Whistler.
One impression from the cancelled plate was printed in dark brown ink on medium-weight ivory laid paper () and another in black ink, also on ivory laid paper ().