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The Tow-Path

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 325
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 50 x 84 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 2
Catalogues: K.254; M.250
Impressions taken from this plate  (2)


canal, cart, horse, landscape, people, river, towpath, tree.


There are slight variations in the wording and punctuation of the title, as follows:

'The Tow-Path ' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'Towing Path' (1889, Whistler). 4
'The Touring Path' [sic] (1900, Caxton Club). 5
'The Towing-Path' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

Although Whistler used both 'Tow-Path' and 'Towing Path' in his records and correspondence, his original title, 'The Tow-Path' is preferable.

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

4: List, 18 July 1889, GUW #13235.

5: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. E251).

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 250).


In the foreground is a canal, with the tow-path on the far side. On the path, at left, is a man standing, and to right, two horses, facing left. Further right is a horse and cart, facing left. Finally, at the far right is a railing with people standing by it. At that point the canal is lined with wood, possibly at the approach to a bridge or lock. In the background at right are trees in full leaf, and in the far distance at left, a house and church spire.


The site has not been identified. It could be on the outskirts of London, or on the continent.


Canals appear in many of Whistler's etchings, in Venice, Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands. Examples include The Two Doorways 221, Fruit Stall 225, Quiet Canal 224, Barges, Dordrecht 262, The Canal, Ostend 352, Bridge, Amsterdam 447, and Zaandam 458.