James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler, Fishing Boat, etching, 1879-1880

Fishing Boat

Kennedy 208, Mansfield 205, Glasgow 198

etching , 1879-80, a superb impression, the rare fifth state (of 6), cleanly printed in black with fine overall plate tone, and notably reflecting on the water lower left and right, on very medium-fine, ivory laid paper, with the Strasbourg Lily watermark*, trimmed to the platemark and signed on the tab (lower left), in excellent condition


P. 155 x 233 mm., S.  162 (with tab) x 233 mm.



James McNeill Whistler first traveled to Venice in 1879-80, and fell in love with the city, and stayed for fourteen months.  He completed about fifty etchings, seeking to capture Venice’s ineffable beauty in a new way. 

In 1880 he wrote:  "I have learned to know a Venice in Venice that others never seem to have perceived . . . "  His etchings depict the quiet streets and backwaters beyond the Grand Canal, avoiding the longstanding tradition of vedute, the majestic views of the city’s main sites.  As one scholar noted, Whistler sought to capture "the essence of the crumbling city: its texture, its light, its distinctive enclosed calli and piazze, and its unique ‘floating’ quality."
  Whistler even carried his pastel and etching materials with him as he explored the city, drawing from life, "sur le motif".

The print was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society in London in 1883.  A London newspaper, the Standard, comparing it with Nocturne: Furnace, stated: "His 'Furnace Nocturne' is among the best, and is very skilful. His 'Fishing Boat' is as fine in line as is the other in light and shade."

Glasgow identifies 39 known impressions of this etching in all states, but they cite only three impressions of the fifth state. **

This print was included in A Set of Twenty-Six Etchings, published by  Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau in 1886, and probably printed by the artist:

The cover sheet for this edition mentions:

THIRTY SETS ONLY WILL BE PRINTED EVERY IMPRESSION WILL BEAR MR. WHISTLER'S AUTOGRAPH, AND WILL BE MOUNTED ON BOARD, AND ISSUED IN A PORTFOLIO SPECIALLY DESIGNED BY THE ETCHER...

It may be assumed that our impression is an early impression, before the final sixth state of the edition; as remarked by Glasgow, "There were not many impressions of the fifth state; however, they were almost certainly among the batch delivered on 26 October 1886."



See the NGA site, which has inventoried known watermarks on Whistler etchings:  http://nga.gov.au/whistler/details/Strasburg.cfm

**  See  http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk/catalogue/etchings/etching/?filename=K2080311