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The Landing Stage, Cowes

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 309
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 134 x 96 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 15
Catalogues: K.328; M.322; W.245
Impressions taken from this plate  (15)


The Landing Stage, Cowes was etched over an earlier composition that may have depicted a window or door. It is entirely etched. It was drawn quickly, with straight, hooked and undulating broken lines, in fact with noticeable gaps in some outlines. The figures are incomplete and so are some of the boats: for instance a steam-boat has a funnel but not much else.


Having drawn the scene on the copper plate, probably on 23 July 1887, on his return to London Whistler immediately etched the plate and started printing. The first proof of The Landing Stage, Cowes was kept in Whistler's possession (). It is printed in dark brown ink on ivory laid paper. The light skim of surface tone is rather uneven, with more ink tone at lower left, balancing the figures, who are in the top third of the plate. Other impressions of this state were printed in black ink, on similar paper (, ). A few later impressions are also in black on ivory and off-white laid paper (, ).
Whistler listed impressions printed in August and September 1887: seven impressions were printed up to 19 August; two more on 26 August and seven on 28 August. Confusingly, he also noted that he had eleven prints in stock and one in the press, and probably this duplicated a total of twelve impressions recorded on 1 September. 7

7: [19 August-26 September], GUW #13234.

On 18 July 1889 he had eight impressions of 'Landing Stage Cowes' in stock. At some date in 1890 or 1891 he recorded ten unmounted and two mounted impressions still in stock in the studio. 8

8: GUW #13235; [1890/1891], #13236.

These lists are not entirely clear, for the record of prints in stock overlaps with the printing records. Seven impressions of The Landing Stage, Cowes remained in Whistler's studio and came to the Hunterian, and it is quite possible that some impressions have been lost or destroyed.
Following the first state, most later impressions were printed in dark brown ink on ivory laid paper (, , , ), one being on a medium-weight 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper with a 'IV' countermark (). All are trimmed to the platemark and signed on the tab with a butterfly and 'imp.' to show that Whistler printed them.