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Return to Tilbury

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 311
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 133 x 97 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 18
Catalogues: K.327; M.321; W.244
Impressions taken from this plate  (18)


jubilee, coast, naval review, sailing ship, sea, ship, steamboat, warship.


It has almost always been known by the same title, as for example:

'Return to Tilbury' (1887, Whistler). 2
'Naval Review Return to Tilbury' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 3
'Return to Tilbury' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4

2: List, [1887/1888], GUW #13233.

3: List, [1890/1892, GUW #12715.

4: Wedmore 1899[more] (cat. no. 244).


Two- and three-masted ships, and several smaller sailing and steam boats are approaching a distant low coast-line. There are some clouds in the sky, and a few waves indicated on the sea, which takes up most of the bottom half of the plate.


At sea off Tilbury in the county of Essex, on the south coast of England. After the Naval Review the troopships and other ships carrying visitors and officials sailed to several ports along the south coast between Southampton and Portsmouth. The Pennells commented:
'The subjects show that they were rapidly done. Whistler, carrying the small plates about with him, sketched the subjects he found on copper as other artists sketch on paper. The whole set of ten [was made] during the Naval Review, with a plate at Tilbury, on his embarking, and another at Portsmouth on landing. The prints of this Series, as we know the exact space of time in which they were done, prove strikingly his wonderful power of giving a momentary impression in a few lines on a piece of copper, for they suggest, in extraordinary fashion, the picturesque aspect of the great naval spectacle.' 5