The Two Ships

James Whistler (1834-1903), The Two Ships, etching and drypoint, 1875,  signed with the butterfly in pencil. Reference: Glasgow 143, fifth state (of 5), Kennedy 148, third state (of 3). In good condition (pale light staining, minor repairs at upper and lower edges); the full sheet, on a 17th C. laid paper with the watermark initials WK. 8 x 5 1/16, the sheet 12 3/8 x 7 3/4 inches.

Provenance: B.B. MacGeorge (Lugt 394). Lugt notes: “Les estampes de Whistler, que MacGeorge possédait aussi en très belles épreuves, furent acquises en 1902 par H. Wunderlich & Co. (Kennedy & Co) de New-York.” Bertrand Buchanan MacGeorge was a Glasgow merchant and noted print collector.

A fine rich impression of this great rarity, with much burr in the drypoint work. This appears to be a very early proof of the fifth state, much richer than the fifth state impression at the National Gallery (Washington). In the fifth state additional shading lines are added to the small boat at the left, the two larger boats, and another warehouse is added behind the one at the far right (in addition to a few other smaller changes.)

A few proofs were made of the early states; then the Dowdeswell firm is said to have published an edition of 30 impressions in 1880, while Whistler was in Venice working on the Venice etchings.  The rarity of impressions suggests that the entire edition was not printed.


The Two Ships - detail