Black Lion Wharf


Whistler – Black Lion Wharf

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Black Lion Wharf, etching, 1859 [signed and dated in the plate lower right]. Reference: Kennedy 42, second state (of 3), Glasgow 54, second state (of 4).  Published in the fourth state as one of the 16 etchings of the Thames Set. In good condition (printed on an extremely delicate tissue thin hand-made cream laid proofing paper, with losses at the margin edges, and thin areas created in the production of the paper). Printed in black ink, 6 x 9, the sheet approximately 10 1/2 x 15 3/8 inches.


Alphonse Hirsch (Lugt 133, with his stamp lower right recto). Alphonse Hirsch (1843-1884) was a French painter and etcher, noted for collecting fine early proofs of his contemporaries and modern artists of the time such as Braquemond and Meryon, as well as earlier masters including Rembrandt and Goya.

R.M Light and Company, Inc., Boston

Carolyn and George Rowland Charitable Foundation Trust

An extraordinarily rich, fine impression.

According to Glasgow, “the only known impression of the first state of Black Lion Wharf was acquired by Samuel Avery (1822-1904).  It is clear that Whistler counted this as a working proof and that the second state was what he considered the first state.”  A limited number of second state impressions were sold (and largely given away by Whistler) shortly after the print was made, in 1860 or so; it was later included, in the fourth state, in the Thames Set (of 1871).

Black Lion Wharf is one of Whistler’s best known portraits of the London waterfront (and seemingly a favorite of Whistler as well, since it appears on the wall of his famed painting of his Mother in the Louvre).

The patterns and details of the buildings along the shoreline were surely influenced by Meryon’s depictions of Paris, made only a few years earlier – they presage Whistler’s focus on storefronts and facades as a compositional vehicle. Simultaneously, the sketchy lines of the figures and boats in the foreground signals his interest in impressionism, in breaking away from rigid adherence to conventional rendering of details.