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The Old Swan Brewery, Chelsea

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 105
Date: 1872/1873
Medium: etching
Size: 67 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.98; M.97; W.89
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


beach, building, cart, horse, people, public house, river.


There are some variations in title, as follows:

'The Swan - Chelsea' (1872, Whistler). 2
' “The Swan”, Chelsea' (1881, Union League Club). 3
"The 'Swan' " (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Swan Brewery' (1885/1890, Whistler). 5
'Swan Brewery Old' (1890/1891, Whistler). 6
'The "Swan" ' (1898, Wunderlich's). 7
' "The Swan", Chelsea' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 8
'The Old Swan Brewery, Chelsea' (2009, Whistler Etching Project).

Whistler's titles, 'The Swan - Chelsea', 'Swan Brewery' and 'Swan Brewery Old' form the basis for the composite title, 'The Old Swan Brewery, Chelsea'.

2: Written on .

3: New York 1881 (cat. no. 118).

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 89).

5: Written on one impression, Swann Galleries, 20 September 2012 (lot 46).

6: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

7: New York 1898 (cat. no. 84).

8: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 97).


The view shows a river-side scene in Chelsea in London, with a variety of one and two-storey buildings and the Swan Brewery at left. There is a horse and cart in the centre and a couple of figures to left. The foreground is bare.


The Swan Brewery was on Swan Walk in Chelsea. Owned by Messrs. Stansfeld, it was opened in the 1740s.
Wedmore in commenting on the treatment of such subjects, called Whistler:
'an artist the sweep of whose brush would give distinction to the Chelsea Workhouse, or to the St George's Union Infirmary in the Fulham Road, and for whom, under the veil of night or dusk, the chimney of the Swan Brewery would wear an aspect not less beautiful than King's College Chapel? It has been given to the master of Etching to see everyday things with a poetic eye.' 9

The area is described as follows:
'Before the creation of Chelsea Embankment, the riverside from the Royal Hospital to Battersea Bridge was crowded, mainly with commercial premises. In the 1840s, west of the terraces and gardens of the Royal Hospital and Gordon House, lay Druces' no. 2 wharf, with a shed and open ground, the public Paradise Walk, then Bull wharf, Swan wharf (also belonging to the Druces), Swan brewery and a shed occupied by Messrs Lyall, boat-houses occupied by the Goldsmiths' and Skinners' companies, the Apothecaries' and their landing place; Old Swan Wharf, with a malthouse, garden, and causeway leased to the Old Swan public house.' 10


Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) portrayed the 'Swan' in a watercolour of apprentice watermen in The Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge. 11 This is the oldest rowing race in the world, held on the river Thames between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea, every year since 1715.

11: BM 1856.0712.923.

Whistler's 'follower' Walter Greaves (1846-1930) depicted the 'Swan' in both etching and painting. For instance, an impression of Old Swan Chelsea is in the Museum of London, and his painting Old Swan and Royal Barge hangs in Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. 12

12: Museum of London id: 143108; Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries 'Virtual Museum' at