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Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 108
Date: 1873/1877
Medium: drypoint
Size: 280 x 190 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 18
Catalogues: K.136; M.134; W.110
Impressions taken from this plate  (18)


head, man, poet, portrait.


Only one title is known, for example:

'Swinburne' (1877, Whistler). 3
'Swinburne' (1886, Whistler). 4
'Swinburne' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5

Possible alternative titles could include the whole name (Algernon Charles Swinburne) and/or his work- as in 'A.C. Swinburne, poet'. However, Whistler's original title is 'Swinburne' and that has been generally accepted as sufficient.

3: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 24 Nov.-8 Dec. [1877], GUW #12742.

4: Written on .

5: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 110).


A full-face portrait of a man with high forehead, thin hair, a moustache and scanty beard, staring straight at the viewer. His shoulders are barely indicated. There is shading in the background, round the head and shoulders. The lower half of the plate is entirely blank.


Etching: c_K136_01
A.C. Swinburne, photograph,
Private Collection.
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909). They had been particularly close in the 1860s. Swinburne's health was not good in the 1870s and this may have limited their contact, but they remained friends well into the 1880s.
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) thought the first state showed Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), and commented: 'That Whistler originally intended this dry-point as a portrait of F. R. Leyland, is quite plain. Possibly after the famous quarrel, he altered it to that of Swinburne - not very successfully'. 6 However, it does not look like Leyland, who appears in F. R. Leyland 121.

A photograph by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company shows Swinburne about 1865. A painting by George Frederic Watts depicts him in 1867 and a caricature by Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), exagerates the effect he produced in 1874. 7 A cartoon by Beerbohm shows the Rossetti circle of the 1870s but was drawn much later: it includes the diminutive Swinburne at upper left and the equally little but less hairy Whistler below him.

6: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 136).

7: National Portrait Gallery website at; photo, NPG x24806; oil by G.F. Watts, NPG 1542; Vanity Fair, 21 November 1874 (NPG 2216).

Etching: c_K141_02
Max Beerbohm, D.G. Rossetti in his Back Garden.
Whistler Collection, Glasgow University Library.