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Free Trade Wharf

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 171
Date: 1877
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 99 x 186 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (3-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: Fine Art Society, 1879?
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 33
Catalogues: K.163; M.160; W.134
Impressions taken from this plate  (33)


barge, river, rowing boat, sailing ship, warehouse, wharf.


There are two main elements in the known titles, as follows:

'From Limehouse' (1870s, Whistler). 2
'Free-Trade Wharf' (1879, F.A.S.) 3
'The Little Limehouse' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Free Trade Wharf (The Little Limehouse)' (1900, Caxton Club). 5
'Free-Trade Wharf' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6
'Free Trade Wharf' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 7

'Free Trade Wharf' is a clearly defined title, incorporating the main element in the view.

2: Written on .

3: Title as published by the Fine Art Society.

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 134).

5: Chicago 1900 (cat. nos. 118, 118a).

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 160).

7: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 163).


In the foreground at right is a large warehouse, with an open covered area on the top floor, on a timber-framed wharf. Two small boats are being rowed on the river, just beyond this warehouse. Riverside wharves and warehouses of all shapes and sizes curve from front right into the distance at far left. A partial sign, '...ACKS', is written (in reverse) on one of the warehouse roofs. Several small boats, barges and sailing ships are moored along the wharves at right, and the bow of a tall masted ship juts out of a dock or basin, in front of a dark warehouse with several large derricks. In mid-stream, to left, are several Thames barges and a two-masted schooner, all with sails furled.


This is a view of the River Thames in London from Limehouse, with Free Trade Wharf in Ratcliffe - one of the biggest of the river wharves - on the right.The buildings etched by Whisler were demolished not long afterwards and replaced by a huge block of warehouses of the same name in 1871. 8

8: See Dockland. An illustrate historical survey of life and work in East London, North East London Polytechnic , 1986, p. 200, no. 15.


In subject and to some extent in style and detail this looks very like the etchings in the 'Thames Set' started in 1859 and published in 1871, such as Thames Warehouses 046.