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Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 78
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 102 x 127 mm
Signed: 'James Whistler' (in inscription) (1-4); removed (5)
Inscribed: '1861' at lower left; 'The Works of James Whistler: Etchings and Dry Points, are on View at E. Thomas' .. Publisher / 39. Old Bond Street' at lower right (1-2); 'London.' added (4); erased (5)
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 67
Catalogues: K.71; M.71; T.44; W.67
Impressions taken from this plate  (67)


barge, beach, church, guard-piles, Japonisme, man, palace, sailing ship, river, steamer, tide, worker, warehouse.


There are two possible titles:

'Millbank' (1871, Ellis & Green). 3
'View taken at Vauxhall' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 4
'Millbank' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5

All later cataloguers agreed on 'Millbank', the title of the etching when first published in the 'Thames Set' in 1871.

3: A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames.

4: Thomas 1874[more], (cat. no. 44).

5: Wedmore 1886 A[more], (cat. no. 67).


In the foreground at left is a barge with '[D]elight 1861' on the stern. It is beached on the broad foreshore of a river receding into the distance at right. The barge is being unloaded, with planks scattered over the open hatch. A fat man wearing a top hat stands on the prow and two more, in caps, hands in pockets, on the shore in the centre foreground. To right is a long row of wooden piles stretching into the distance in front of a timbered embankment. The piles cast dark shadows to the right, behind them.
Out in the stream is a small steamboat, and farther away, on the right, a barge under sail. Barges are beached on the far shore, below a row of wharves, warehouses, factories and chimneys, and, in the distance, the towers of a palace.
The inscription etched in the foreground reads 'The Works of James Whistler - Etchings and Dry Points, are / on View at E. Thomas' Publisher / 39. Old Bond Street'.


The view is taken from Millbank on the river Thames in London at low tide, looking north-west. On the far bank are the wharves and warehouses along Fore Street, past White Hart Stairs and Lambeth Stairs, with the towers of Lambeth Palace visible in the distance. At far left (right in the print), the Houses of Parliament and Westminster bridge were just out of sight, round the bend of the river.
Ralph Thomas had called this a 'View taken at Vauxhall' 6 but this is incorrect. Vauxhall was on the opposite side of the river, to right and behind Whistler, and is not visible in the etching. F.S. Ellis described it as 'Lambeth Church seen from the Thames embankment works then in progress', but clearly by 'church' means the palace. 7

The erection of a bridge at Lambeth was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1860. Thus Whistler, in 1861, was recording a view that would be radically changed when the new bridge was completed, for Lambeth Palace would be partly obscured from Millbank. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, Lambeth suspension bridge opened in 1862. 8 The bridge proved insufficiently secure for its purpose, and became a pedestrian bridge, but was eventually closed. The current bridge, designed by the engineer Sir George Humphreys and architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, was opened in 1932.

6: Thomas 1874[more], (cat. no. 44).

7: [Ellis, Frederick Startridge], Memories of Men, Places and Things, belonging to past times, London , n.d. [1896/1897], p. 52.

8: 'Lambeth Suspension Bridge, The Times (London), 11 November 1862, p. 5.


This small etching was used to advertise the first exhibition of the 'Thames Set' by Edmund Thomas (1842-1883), in 1861. Lochnan discussed this choice, adding:
'Perhaps the dramatically unconventional composition in which the river and its bank rise vertically in the picture space, framed on the right by a row of upright posts, displeased [Thomas]. While these elements were unusual in Western art, they could be found in nineteenth-century Japanese landscape prints. Dramatic and highly decorative rows of posts used for mooring boats are frequently found in the river views of [Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)].' 9