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Children, Portsmouth

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 301
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 67 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.323; M.311
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


baby, beach, boat, children, people, port, jubilee, quay, sailing ship, sea.


There are variations in word order but not in the content of the title:

'Portsmouth, Children' (1887, Whistler). 2
'Children Portsmouth' (1887, Whistler). 3
'Children (Portsmouth)' (1887/1888, Whistler). 4
'Portsmouth Children' (1902, Kennedy). 5

Whistler's original title, 'Portsmouth, Children' indicates that the children are at Portsmouth rather than being all local Portsmouth children, and this is the preferred title.

2: Whistler to T. McLean, 20 August 1887, GUW #13089.

3: List, [18-23 August 1887], GUW #13233.

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

5: Kennedy 1902[more] (cat. no. 275).


Groups of children, babies and adults are standing and sitting on the beach, which stretches from the left foreground into the distance at right. One of the little boys is wearing a sailor suit and wide-brimmed hat, and the girls have hats and bonnets; at right, a large umbrella is propped up on the beach, with someone sheltering behind it. Several small rowing boats and sailing dinghies are drawn up on the shore, including one in the centre with raised sail. Off-shore are numerous small craft, some small yachts, and in the distance, at left, a taller sailing ship. In the distance at right there are some buildings along the waterside.


Portsmouth, the second largest city in the county of Hampshire, is a busy port on the south coast of England. In Victorian times it was mainly situated on Portsea Island. It has been a naval base and dockyard for centuries, and a ferry port for ships to the Continent. The Times reported:
The inhabitants of Portsmouth and the visitors who had been attracted in thousands to the town were stirring at an early hour. With a view to see the great transport ships with their freights of privileged visitors pass out of the harbour, numbers of spectators took up positions upon Southsea beach, and as the morning advanced the lines of faces looking seaward from the coast reached from the new pier right away to Southsea Castle. The pier, too, was crammed, and from many of the yachst anchored to the south of it curious spectators also surveyed the scene. ' 6