Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Wapping <<   >>

Wapping

Provenance

  • 1866/1867: bought from Whistler by Thomas de Kay Winans (1820-1878), Baltimore, possibly for £350; 1
  • 1878: after Winans's death on 11 June 1878, passed to his daughter Celeste Marguerite Winans (Mrs G. M. Hutton) (1855-1925), who owned it until at least 1923;
  • 1925: possibly bequeathed to her daughter Elsie Celeste Winans, Mrs G. McR. Hutton (1884-1966).
  • By 1928: owned by Flora MacDonald White (1901-1984), New York;
  • 1928: sold on 29 September 1928 to John Hay Whitney (1904-1982), Manhasset, New York;
  • 1982: deeded to the John Hay Whitney Charitable Trust, New York;
  • 1982: given to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

In 1862 Whistler offered some paintings to Thomas de Kay Winans (1820-1878), who replied on 25 August:

'It would be necessary for me to take another look at the pictures you offer me before I could determine whether the possession of one of those or of something else which I know that you can execute would give me the desired pleasure, I therefore will have to postpone the matter until my return to England, … in the mean time if you have an offer do not hesitate on my account as I am in no hurry -

I have taken the liberty of placing £50 to your credit with Baring Bros, toward something that I may obtain from you.' 2

In November and December 1863 Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) urged the collector James Leathart (1820-1895) to buy Wapping, writing on 9 December: 'The Thames picture is still unsold, and on enquiring of Whistler I find its price is 300 guineas. It is the noblest of all the pictures he has done hitherto, and is the one for your collection.' 3

On 10 February 1864 Whistler's mother wrote: 'He is thinking seriously of selling his Wapping large picture to a gentleman in Scotland for 200 guineas, there is so much work upon it & such expenses attend painting, his price was 300 guineas.' 4 Whistler actually asked £250 for it, but the Scottish artist William Bell Scott (1811-1890) thought that was 'entirely too dear.' 5 It was offered for sale to James Leathart (1820-1895), but he did not go for it. 6

Wapping in Winans' villa
Wapping in Winans' villa
Wapping in Winans' villa, detail, Maryland Historical Society
Wapping in Winans' villa, detail, Maryland Historical Society

It is not known when Thomas Winans actually acquired Wapping, although it appears in a photograph of a sitting room in 'Alexandroffsky', his villa in Baltimore. He sent Whistler another £50.0.0 on 3 June 1865, and £200.0.0 on 6 April 1867, although, he said, 'I am not collecting pictures to any extent, and in the unsettled state in which I am living, would not know what disposition to make of so many pictures if I had them.' 7 According to Fleming, Wapping was bought by Winans for £350. 8

The date of this purchase is unclear: according to a newspaper clipping in the Winans-Hutton Family Scrapbook, Winans purchased Wapping in 1867 when it was exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris (according to the same source Whistler 'wanted it for exhibition at Goupil's, in 1892, but could not get it and it has not been seen in Europe since 1867.' 9

It may have briefly been on the art market in the 1870s. It was marked for sale when the collection of Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) was on show in New York in 1873 but found no buyer. 10

On Thomas Winans's death, his collection of paintings was bequeathed to his daughter, Celeste Marguerite Winans (Mrs G. M. Hutton). 11 In turn Wapping may have been bequeathed to her daughter, Elsie Celeste Hutton Certainly it was for sale in the late 1920s.

According to Rewald, Wapping was one of the first purchases made by John Hay Whitney (1904-1982), who began collecting in the early 1930s. 12

Exhibitions

  • 1864: 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1864 (cat. no. 585) as 'Wapping'.
  • 1866: Seventh Annual Exhibition, New York Artists' Fund Society, held at the Galleries of the National Academy of Design, New York, 1866.
  • 1866: Seventh Annual Exhibition, New York Artists' Fund Society, held at the Galleries of the National Academy of Design, New York, 1866 (cat. no. 360) as 'On the Thames'.
  • 1867: Possibly 85th exhibition Salon de 1867, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1867 as 'Sur la Tamise, l'hiver.'
  • 1867: Exposition Universelle/ Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867 (1st edition) 1867 (cat. no. 76) as 'Wapping' or 'On the Thames', and (2nd edition) 1867 (cat. no. 69) as 'Wapping, on the Thames'.
  • 1873: S. P. Avery's Catalogue of Oil Paintings, 625 Broadway, New York, 1873 (cat. no. 184) as 'Wapping, London'.
  • 1876: Academy Charity Exhibition, Academy of Music, Baltimore, March 1876 (cat. no. 39) as 'Wapping'.

Before Wapping was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1864, Whistler had stated his intention of sending it to the Salon, but wondered if he could write to Comte Alfred Émilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke (1811-1892), Directeur des Musées, Paris, asking for permission to submit his work late. 13 Although it did not go to the Salon, the picture was submitted and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1864: Whistler told Fantin-Latour that 'la Tamise est également accepté et sera bien accroché' ('the Thames has also been accepted and will be hung well'). 14

The Spectator found the painting 'sensuous', the colour 'pleasing' and technique 'marvellous', but considered that it lacked 'meaning' because there was no obvious moral or story. 15 The Times admired 'the force and truth' of the riverscape, painted in a style worthy of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), but considered it 'a pity that this masterly background should be marred by a trio of grim and mean figures.' 16 The Daily Telegraph similarly considered that the figures were 'carelessly painted and unpleasant in character' but admired the freshness of the brushwork and 'truth of relative tone.' 17 Likewise The Athenaeum praised Whistler's treatment of light and colour, 'the chiaroscuro, tone and the fidelity of treatment which the craft of the painter has made poetical.' 18 The viewpoint was considered 'unusual' providing, as one critic wrote, an 'incomparable view of the Lower Pool of London.' 19 Thus the fact that it was an apparently faithful representation of a London scene met with approval. William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) wrote, 'Everything is literal, matter-of-fact, crowded, dispersed, casual ... We hope to see it painted again and again by the same gifted hand, native to America, yet in such subjects so happily English.' 20

The following year, it was shown in New York. 21 A year later it was back in Europe briefly for the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Whistler heard that his paintings were exhibited in a corridor – although it was at the entrance to the United States section – and was furious, writing to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909):

'For Gods sake what is all this about my pictures in the entry! ... Have the pictures all taken away if you can - I won't have them hung where they are - ... I don't know what to say about the varnishing - Perhaps it were better to make a formal demand from Beckwith on my behalf for the withdrawal of my pictures all together.' 22

However, W. M. Rossetti claimed that the paintings were exhibited satisfactorily, 'He says that he never from first to last received any invitation to contribute to the British section of the Paris Exhibition. This might seem invidious, but the result is that he gets in the American section much more space than could have been allotted him in the British.' 23 Whistler remained unconvinced, and complained, 'I shall have had all the expense of sending my pictures to a corridor where they have been more or less damned by every body and now will have to pay for getting them back again!' 24

It is not clear exactly when Wapping was sent to Thomas Winans in Baltimore, but he lent it ten years later to a local Charity Art exhibition. Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) sent Whistler a review of the show,

'It is painted with a vigorous breadth of handling that cannot fail to arrest one's attention, and with an extraordinary effect of perspective. Its color is truthful, harmonious in every part and singularly strong. Together with the various details of cordage, masts, spars and sails, the character of the hulls and their drawing, and the whole spirit and motive of the composition, it produces the precise impression of what the painter saw and desired to convey on the canvas. We regard it as a wholly unconventional and remarkable powerful picture.' 25

The reception of Whistler's pictures in Baltimore was very mixed, as another reviewer described at some length:

'Probably no part of the exhibition has attracted so much attention as the panel where hang the works of Mr Whistler. His paintings call forth such extreme expressions of liking and disliking, as to show, if nothing else did, that they are not mediocre performances. The presence of these bizarre works of art, in the midst of far better and far worse pictures, has a very happy educating influence. They force themselves on the attention ... Some find in them a strange and weird fascination; others are violently repelled. Some consider them master works of technical skill; others look on them as mere daubs. But this at least is taught by these pictures, that the aim of art is not mere prettiness. Mr Whistler had a perfectly definite aim, and an original path to reach that aim.' 26

After this there was a long gap in its exhibition history. Whistler listed it among pictures he wanted to borrow for his major retrospective exhibition, at the Goupil Gallery in 1892. It was listed as '"The Pool" Mrs. S. W. Hutton/ 938 Hollins St. /Baltimore, U.S.A' which is confusing because as far as is known it was then owned by Celeste Marguerite Winans (Mrs G. M. Hutton). 27 Whistler told David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), 'I have done what I could - even to writing over to America for the picture of "Wapping" - but the people are so long in answering and so difficult about lending.' 28 However, in the end it could not be obtained for the Goupil show.

A few years later Whistler was suggesting that the American art dealer, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), should borrow 'The Pool Rotherhithe' for an unspecified exhibition, and Kennedy replied that '"The Pool Rotherhithe" is the property of Gamet Hutton, the wild North of Ireland man who married Miss Winans'; unsurprisingly, no further exhibition materialised at this time. 29

Notes:

1: Flem1978 [more], pp. 159, 196-98.

2: GUW #07080.

3: 4 November and 9 December 1863, University of British Columbia; GUW #12441.

4: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, GUW #06552.

5: Scott to J. Leathart, 25 February [1864], University of British Columbia.

6: W. B. Scott to J. Leathart, 25 April 1864, University of British Columbia.

7: GUW #12624, #07081.

8: Flem1978 [more], pp. 159, 196-98; see also W. B. Scott to J. Leathart, 25 April 1864, University of British Columbia.

9: MS. 916, box 18, Maryland Historical Society Manuscripts Division. For further information on the Winans and Hutton families, see Bertram Lippincott III, "The Hutton Family of 'Shamrock Cliff'," Newport History. Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society, vol. 64, no. 221, Fall 1991, pp. 164-66, and Alexandra Lee Levin, 'Inventive, Imaginative, and Incorrigible: The Winans Family and the Building of the First Russian Railroad,' Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 84, Spring 1989, pp. 50-55, cited in National Gallery of Art website at https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.61254.html#provenance.

10: Exhibition catalogue New York 1873 (Avery) [more] (cat. no. 184).

11: 'Will of Thomas Winans', New York Herald, New York, 15 June 1878.

12: Rewald, John, 'French Paintings in the collection of Mr and Mrs John Hay Whitney,' The Connoisseur, 134 (April 1956), p. 140, (cat. no. 552) repr.

13: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, 3 February 1864, GUW #08036.

14: [5/26] April [1864], GUW #08038.

15: The Spectator, London, 18 June 1864 (press cutting kept by Whistler, GUL Whistler PC1/11).

16: 'Exhibition of the Royal Academy [Second Article]', The Times, London, 5 May 1864, p. 8.

17: Anon., 'Royal Academy Exhibition', Daily Telegraph, London, 16 May 1864 (press cutting in GUL Whistler PC1/11).

18: 'Fine Arts / The Royal Academy',The Athenaeum, London, 14 May 1864, pp. 682–84 at p. 683 (press cutting in GUL Whistler PC1/13, 15).

19: Quoted from an unidentified press cutting, [1864], GUL Whistler PC1/15. See also The Realm, London, 4 May 1864; and see Goebel, Catherine C., Arrangement in Black and white: The Making of a Whistler Legend, PhD, Northwestern University, 1988, Appendix 5.

20: 'The Royal Academy Exhibition', Fraser's Magazine, 31 June 1865, pp. 736–53 (excerpt kept by Whistler, GUL Whistler PC1/33); an edited version in Rossetti 1867: [more], pp. 274-76, omitted the reference to nationality. See MacDonald, Margaret F., 'Whistler and the Thames', in MacDonald, Margaret, and Patricia de Montfort, An American in London: Whistler and the Thames, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Addison Gallery of American Art, Freer Gallery of Art, 2013-2014, p. 19.

21: Press cutting in GUL Whistler PC1, p. 5.

22: [6 April 1867], GUW #09192. Randall 1979 [more], p. 238.

23: The Pennells described the hanging and reception of Whistler's pictures as unsatisfactory: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 139-41.

24: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, [20 November 1867], GUW #09194.

25: 'Art Notes', Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, Baltimore, 18 March 1876, GUL Whistler PC 1/73.

26: 'Art Culture', unidentified press cutting, GUL Whistler PC 1/77.

27: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [16 November 1892], GUW #11504.

28: [20 February 1892], GUW #08219.

29: 4 August 1899, GUW #07317.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret