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The Long House (The Dyers, Amsterdam)

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 453
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 166 x 271 mm
Signed: butterfly to upper left of centre
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 14
Catalogues: K.406; M.408; W.266
Impressions taken from this plate  (14)


balcony, building, bridge, canal, dog, door, dyer, house, laundry, people, washing.


There are many small variations on the title, with Whistler even giving different titles on the same day, including the following:

'(The Dyers). Long houses.' (1890, Whistler). 1
'The Dyers (Longs House[)]' (1890, Whistler). 2
'Long Houses. (The Dyers)' (1890, Whistler). 3
'Long House The Dyers ' (1890/1891, Whistler). 4
'Long House' (1890, Whistler). 5
'"The Long House" (The Dyers Amsterdam)' (1890, Whistler). 6
'"Long house" [Amsterdam] ' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 7
'The Long House' (1893, World's Columbian Expo.). 8
'Long House - Dyer's - Amsterdam' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 9
'The Long House Dyer's Amsterdam' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 10
'Long House, Amsterdam' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 11
'Long-House – Dyer’s – Amsterdam' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 12

There are several problems in identifying the correct title, the first being that at first Whistler emphasized 'The Dyers', and later, the 'Long House' or 'Long Houses.' The next problem is that his original title reflects the fact that there is more than one 'Long house'.

The third problem is that the punctuation varies even more than usual, with definitive articles, quotation marks, brackets and dashes, each of which alters the emphasis of the title. It is impossible to resolve all these variations.

'The Long House (The Dyers, Amsterdam)' is based on the title Whistler gave to South Kensington Museum, which might be considered definitive.

1: Whistler to Dunthorne, 17 February 1890, GUW #13039.

2: To H. Mansfield, 4 March 1890, GUW #13047.

3: To C. L. Freer, 4 March 1890, GUW #13065.

4: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

5: To Wunderlich's, 29 May 1890, GUW #13058.

6: To South Kensington Museum, 2 July 1890, GUW #13044.

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

8: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2266 [1685]).

9: Wedmore 1899[more] (cat. no. 266).

10: Envelope containing copper plate, University of Glasgow.

11: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 408).

12: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 406).


A view across a canal to the lower two storeys of a row of brick houses, with outhouses and balconies supported on piers over the canal. Near the centre, a shed with a single window extends to the edge of the bulkhead, to which, on either hand, rough planks of wood are fastened. A woman is standing in the doorway at the left. In front of her, at left, a woman is bending over to clean a basin, and to right a dog is investigating something that might be edible. To left, material - possibly hides - is hung to dry. In front of the house at right, a child is leaning over palings. There are extensive reflections in the canal. At the corner of this house, at right, beams stick out diagonally to support a balcony with flowers in boxes on the first floor. Round the corner, at far right, the canal can be seen, running into the distance, and more houses with balconies, and clothes hanging on poles, are seen on the far side.


Five etchings were done by Whistler in the red-light district of Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. Three (this, The Square House, Amsterdam 454 and The Dance House: Nocturne 455) are devoted to the Oudezijdsfolk, which was a picturesque shopping street popular with artists. This shows the outbuildings and basements at the back of a row of houses on the Zeedijk. The Amsterdam street directories of the period do not mention a dyer's workshop on these premises. 13

13: Heijbroek 1997[more], pp. 65-66.


Whistler had already made an etching called The Dyer 192 in Venice, and other etchings, such as The Doorway 193 and The Pierrot 450 employ the motif of a woman rinsing cloth in the water to bridge the space between water and building. In this case the cloths or hides hung out to dry suggest a small-scale dyer's establishment, a home industry which would have seriously polluted the canal. However, it is also possible that it was just wash-day, and that the etching shows women at work, with one woman standing in the doorway and keeping an eye on the artist at work on the other side of the canal.