James Abbott McNeill Whistler

An original James Abbott McNeill Whistler lithotint print.


Original lithotint with scraping and incising printed in black ink on thin Japan paper.

A superb, transparently printed impression of Way’s second and final state Spink’s second state of three, of this scarce lithotint, printed after the re-etching of the stone lightening its overall tone, from the edition of 30 (there were five additional proof impression for an overall edition of 35). One of six lithographs issued in the portfolio Notes, published by Boussod, Valadon & Co. Paris, 1887; printed by Thomas Way, London.

Catalog: Spink 7 ii/iii; Way 4 ii/ii; Levy 8-9.

6 11/16 x 10 3/8 inches

Sheet Size: 8 11/16 x 11 3/16 inches

Having completed two figure studies using brush and wash, Whistler was encouraged by Thomas Way to continue working with lithotint. According to T.R. Way’s accounts of 1912, his father arranged an excursion to Limehouse, the dock area in east London where Whistler had made one of his realist etchings in 1859. The printers prepared several stones with rectangular areas of half-tint and transported them to the site. Whistler then sat “out on a barge [and] made the lithotint of the old wharves and shipping.”

The Limehouse project was an ambitious undertaking, far more complex technically then the crayon-and-wash lithographs Whistler had just completed. The artist seems to have used brushes of different sizes and various dilutions of tusche. After allowing the washes to dry, he scraped into the dark tones in order to indicate highlights in the water and to suggest details in the old buildings huddled on the shore, in the ship riggings, and in the figures on the barge in the foreground.

In 1878 Thomas Way had attempted, with little success, to attract subscribers for a series of Whistler’s lithographs entitled Art Notes. In a887 the idea was revived and a group of six of the 1878-79n subjects were published by Boussod, Valadon & Co. in a portfolio called Notes. The stones for four of these subjects were printed in large editions by the Ways in 1887, but according to Way (1912) only thirty impressions of Limehouse could be pulled.