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Market Place, Ostend

Impression: National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
Number: 350
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 92 x 134 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 2
Catalogues: K.350; M.439
Impressions taken from this plate  (2)


café, fish shop, market, people, stall, awning, children, woman standing.


Variable and sometimes conflicting titles have been given to this etching, as follows:

'Market Place, Ostend' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'Market Place - Ostend' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 4
'A Market, Ostend' (1905, ISSPG). 5
'The Market, Calais' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6
'Market, Calais' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 7

There is no reference in Whistler's records to any Calais subjects in etching. Kennedy admitted that 'This title is quite an arbitrary one which I gave to this subject some years ago in London to differentiate it from similar subjects, all of which, most likely, were done at the same time.' 8

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

4: List, [1890/1892], #12715.

5: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 380).

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 439).

7: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 350).

8: Ibid.

Whistler's original title, 'Market Place, Ostend' is preferred.


Two fish stalls, the wares spread out on wooden trestles, in a market. Two women, seen from the back, stand at the far left in front of one stall. On the right is a stall with an awning, and baskets hung under the awning to right; the stall-holder is standing facing front, arms akimbo, wearing a small cap, and a shawl crossed over and tucked under her apron; a boy, whose head alone is visible, is manning the stall at the far right. Facing the stall, with their backs to the viewer, are a young boy, a woman with a basket on her arm, and, at far right, two girls. Behind the stalls, just to left of centre, is a woman carrying shopping, and four men sitting outside a cafe, and above them, low buildings and roofs with windows are sketched in roughly.


This is probably the fishmarket on the Visserskaai in Ostend, a city and municipality in the Flemish province of West Flanders, Belgium. It is 110 kms northwest of Brussels. The largest coastal city in Belgium, it was a busy fishing port and terminal for the ferries from Ramsgate.


Whistler etched a series of small etchings of markets, market women, fish, flower and poultry markets in the 1880s.
This etching shows a fish-market, and it is very closely related in size, style, composition and subject to Fish Women, Ostend 349. Around 1890/1891 Whistler recorded several fishy subjects including 'Fishing Quay Ostend' (presumably Fishing Quay, Ostend 351) and 'Fish Women' (probably Fish Women, Ostend 349), while his wife Beatrice listed numerous market scenes including both 'Fishing Quay - Ostend' and 'Fish Women - Ostend' as well as 'Market Place - Ostend. 1887, / Market women Loches, 1888 / Market Place (Little). Tours. 1888 / Market Place. The. Tours. 1888 ... Market place (The - Large - ) Loches 1888'. 9

9: [1890/1891], GUW #13236; [1890/1892], #12715.

The characteristics of local people's dress and stance are caught with broken dots, dashes, hooks and jagged, jerky lines. Their faces however are summarily indicated with minimal features, or are not seen at all. Nevertheless it is clear that one would recognise the plump stall holder to left in her assertive dress and jacket, even without a sight of her face. The figures are an essential element within the scene. The interaction and inter-relationship of people - mothers and children, friends, stall-holder and client - is stressed. Their humanity is emphasized but their individual features are suppressed. Thus they both involve and reject the viewer.