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From Billingsgate

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 165
Date: 1876/1877
Medium: drypoint
Size: 152 x 229 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right (6-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 28
Catalogues: K.168; M.164; W.130
Impressions taken from this plate  (28)


barge, quay, river, sailing ship, sailors, shipping, steamer, warehouse.


Variations in the title are as follows:

'From Billingsgate' (1870s, possibly Whistler). 2
'From Billingsgate' (1881, Union League Club). 3
'From Billingsgate' (1877, Whistler). 4
'A Sketch from Billingsgate' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
''Billingsgate (a sketch from)? Wedmore 130'.' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 6
'A Sketch from Billingsgate' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 7

'From Billingsgate' is Whistler's original title, and the addition of 'A Sketch from' is unnecessary.

2: Written on .

3: New York 1881 (cat. no. 148).

4: Whistler to Royal Collection, Windsor Castle Library, [19/22 October 1877], GUW #12736.

5: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 130).

6: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

7: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 164).


In the foreground at right there are three barges in front of a timbered wharf at which several sailing boats are moored. Small boats are tied to left of the wharf, with a man sitting in one. Behind them, at the left edge, is the prow of a tall sailing ship. The traces of another sailing ship are visible crossing the bowsprit, and slightly in front of it. Behind, and to right of the ship, just off the wharf, there are more barges. On the far side of the river are warehouses and more small sailing boats and Thames barges.


The River Thames, in London, as seen from Billingsgate Wharf. Billingsgate market was the main covered fish-market in Britain. Whistler depicted the wharf, with its rows of oyster- and fishing-boats, more fully in Billingsgate 051, which was published in 1878.
From Billingsgate shows the range of shipping clustered around the wharf but does not show the ranks of fishing boats that gathered there in the early morning. It may in fact represent the wharf later in the day, when the hubbub of the market had died down into relative calm. It is a drypoint, and was drawn quickly on site when originally conceived, printed back in the studio, reworked on site, and altered after practically every proof during printing back in the studio.