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Chelsea Wharf

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 97
Date: 1863
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 93 x 192 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right (1-2); butterfly at lower right (2)
Inscribed: '1863 -' at lower right
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.89; M.89; T.75; W.81
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


barge, bridge, building, cart, horse, river, warehouse, worker.


There are few variations on the title, as in the following examples:

'CHELSEA WHARF' (1863, Whistler). 1
'Cheyne Walk. Chelsea' (1863, Whistler). 2
'Old Chelsea Wharf' (1874, Pall Mall Galleries). 3
'Chelsea Wharf' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 4
'Chelsea Wharf' (1875, Whistler). 5

'Chelsea Wharf' appears to be the most consistently used title, dating back to Whistler.

1: Etched thrice on the copper plate.

2: Written on ().

3: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 3).

4: Thomas 1874[more] (cat. no. 75).

5: Whistler to W. C. Alexander, [March/April 1875?], GUW #07573.


Thames barges, sails furled, lie beached high on the Thames foreshore at Chelsea at low tide. Behind them are two- and three-storey buildings and warehouses. On the buildings are several signs: 'CHELSEA WHARF', 'THOMAS WEEKS, CHELSEA WHARF, ROMAN CEMENT AND LIME', 'CHELSEA WHARF, CLOVER, HAY AND STRAW.' Men are unloading the barges with the aid of carts and horses. There are two tall poles with marker boards at the top, one to right of centre and the other at the far right.


Chelsea Wharf was in front and to right of Whistler's house on Lindsey Row, on the River Thames in Chelsea.
The etching, Battersea Reach 096 was drawn from nearby, looking across the river to Battersea, and upstream to Wandsworth Railway Bridge.
Whistler painted a small oil study, Grey and Silver: Chelsea Wharf y054, probably at some time between 1864 and 1868 (it was first exhibited in 1875). It shows the view looking across from the jetties on the Chelsea shore, with their barges, at high tide, to Battersea on the opposite shore; a similar view is seen in Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Battersea Reach y119 and Nocturne: Battersea y120. A later painting, Nocturne: Grey and Silver - Chelsea Embankment, Winter y205, shows the curve of the River Thames at Chelsea, this time at mid-tide, and after the Thames Embankment was extended, which radically changed the waterfront.