Little Doorway, Lyme Regis


James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Little Doorway, Lyme Regis; lithograph, 1895. Reference: Spink, Stratis and Tedeschi 119, only state, in good condition with margins (expert japan backing at thin spots verso corners), on a smooth cream wove proofing paper, image 11 x 7 1/4, the sheet 12 5/8 x 10 inches, archival matting.

Provenance: ex Collection Louis B. Dailey, with his stamp verso and also on the mat; and Kennedy Galleries, with a copy of their address and label attached to the mat (with their early address, 693 5th Avenue, New York). The Kennedy label notes: “Only 15 proofs Way, No. 83.” This refers to the fact that according to Way only 15 lifetime impressions were printed, and presumably this is one of that group (another 30 impressions were taken by Goulding in 1904, shortly after Whistler’s death).

A fine delicately printed impression; not as black and uniform in appearance as the posthumous impressions; also, the image is not centered on the sheet as is typical of the posthumous impressions. These characteristics, along with the Kennedy label, strongly indicate that this impression is lifetime, and although the evidence is not absolutely dispositive, it is our opinion that it is lifetime.

Whistler and his ailing wife Beatrix traveled to Lyme Regis, Dorset in late summer, 1895, hoping that the sea air would improve her health.  He made seven drawings on special lithographic transfer paper while there; six were of a smithy on Broad street, the seventh was The Little Doorway. The dampness of the air in Lyme Regis affected the transfer paper, making printing difficult, and in a letter the printer Way explained to Whistler that it had been a “sort of guesswork on our part as to how far you would like the strengthening to go.” In the end Whistler apparently liked the Little Doorway and included it in the exhibition of his lithographs at the Fine Art Society a few months later.