The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 035
Wapping

Wapping

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1860-1864
Collection: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Accession Number: John Hay Whitney Collection 1982.76.8
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: 72 x 101.8 cm (28 3/8 x 40 1/16")
Signature: 'Whistler.'
Inscription: '1861.'
Frame: Grau-style, American, 1920s

Date

Wapping may have been started in 1860; it was signed in 1861, and continued until 1865.

1860: According to the Pennells, it was started in 1860. 1 In October 1860 a friend from student days, George du Maurier (1834-1896), wrote that Whistler was working on a painting, probably Wapping:

'we are immense chums, though I see less of him now for he is working hard and in secret down in Rotherhithe, among a beastly set of cads and every possible annoyance and misery, doing one of the greatest chefs d'oeuvres – no difficulty discourages him.' 2

A young woman by the name of Miriam Levy wrote to Whistler many years later: 'I accompanied you and a young woman ([c]alled Annie du Maurier) - and a Greek - named Ionides to Rotherithe [sic] to see a Picture - a nautical one I think you were then about finishing.' 3

Wapping, pencil, Hunterian
Wapping, pencil, Hunterian

The undated drawing reproduced above shows an early version of the composition.

1861: The painting is signed and dated '1861.' In March Whistler and his model, Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886) were recorded in the census as living in Greenwich, within easy reach of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. The painting was described and drawn by Whistler in a letter to Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), some time before July 1861 when Fantin visited Whistler in London. The relevant text, and accompanying sketch, are as follows:

'je voudrais t'avoir ici devant un tableau sur lequel je compte bigrement et qui doit devenir un chef d'oeuvre - voici à peu pres ce que c'est.'

Wapping, 1861, pen
Wapping, 1861, pen

'Là ... je tacherai de te l'expliquer - D'abord on est dans un balcon au premier etage, donant en plein sur la Tamise. Il y a trois personnes - un vieux en chemise blanche celui du milieu qui regarde par la fenetre - puis à droite dans le coin, un matelot en casquette et en chemise bleu à grand col rabattu d'un bleu plus clair, qui cause avec une fille bigrement difficile a peindre! Et voici pourquoi je voudrais surtout t'avoir pour que nous puissions discuter l'affaire - Tu sais je l'ai peint trois fois et je ne veux pas me fatiguer - du reste si je la tripotte trop souvent je n'aurai guere le temps de faire le reste - Enfin crois tu! je suis arrivé à y mettre une expression! ... un air de dire à son matelot "Tout ça est bon mon vieux! J'en ai vu d'autres!" tu sais elle cligne de l'oeil et elle se moque de lui! - Maintenant tout ça contre le jour et par conséquent dans une demie teinte attrocement difficile - mais je ne crois pas que je la repeindrai. - La gorge est exposée - la chemise se voit presque en entier qui est bien peinte mon cher - et puis une jacquette ... en etoffe fond blanc à grand arabesques et fleurs de toutes couleurs! Chut! n'en parles pas à Courbet! Maintenant par la fenetre on voit toute la Tamise! Le fond qui est comme une eau forte - et qui etait difficile à ne pas y croire! Le ciel par exemple est tres vrai et cranement peint - il y en a un coin qui se voit à travers les vitraux qui est chic! - Plus pret il y a un rang de grands vaisseaux dout un décharge du charbon, et tout contre la fênetre le mat et la voile jaune d'un alège et juste contre la tête de la fille (qui j'oublliai de te dire a l'air superieurement putin) il y a le beaupré d'un autre grand vaisseau, dont les cordes et les pullies traversent tout le tableau - Pour les details demandes à mon ami Ridley ... mais j'ai repeint la tête depuis son depart. Il y a encore beaucoup de petits bateaux et batiments que je ne puis pas mettre dans l'esquisse - Mais mon cher Fantin je t'assure que jamais ai-je entammé une chose aussi difficile - On est sur tu sais de dire que ce n'est pas fini - parce que comme les bateaux s'en vont je n'ai que juste le temps de mettre leurs valeurs en tons - tu me comprends - et bien pour ceux qui ont l'habitude de fabriquer des marines chez eux et de faire poser des cocottes et des joujoux pour vaisseaux de guerre, mes vrais vaisseaux ne seront pas finis.' 4

Translation: 'I would like you to be here in front of a picture which I am jolly certain must become a masterpiece - here is more or less what it is like. [drawing of Wapping] ... I will try to explain it - Firstly it is on a balcony right above the Thames. There are three people - an old man in a white shirt the one in the middle who is looking out of the window - then on the right in the corner, a sailor in a cap and a blue shirt with a big collar turned back in a lighter blue, who is chatting to a girl who is jolly difficult to paint! And that is why I wish above all to have you here so that we could discuss it - Well I have painted her three times and I do not want to get tired - besides if I fiddle about with her too much I will have hardly any time to do the rest - Well you can imagine! I have managed to give her an expression! … an air of saying to her sailor "That is all very well, my friend! I have seen others!" you know she is winking and laughing at him! - Now all that against the light and in consequence in atrociously difficult muted colours - but I do not think I shall paint her again. - Her neck is exposed - her blouse can be seen almost entirely and how well it is painted my dear chap - and then a jacket ... in a white material with big arabesques and flowers of all colours! Hush! Not a word to Courbet! Now through the window you can see the whole Thames! The background is like an etching - and was unbelievably difficult! The sky for example is very truly and splendidly painted - there is a corner which can be seen through the window panes which is excellent! - Nearer that is a row of large boats one of which is unloading coal and right by the window the mast and yellow sail of a lighter and just by the head of the girl (who I forgot to tell you looks supremely whorelike) there is the bowsprit of another large boat, the ropes and pulleys of which go across the whole picture - For the details ask my friend Ridley ... but I have repainted the head since he left. There are also many small boats and buildings which I cannot put into the sketch. But my dear Fantin I assure you that I have never attempted such a difficult subject - it will certainly be said that it is not finished - because as the boats leave I have only just time to put in their shades of colour - you understand me - and for those who are in the habit of making their seascapes at home and to paint models and toys for warships my real boats will not be finished.'

Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), writing several years later, implied that it was being painted in 1861. 5

However, in early June 1861 Whistler fell 'dreadfully ill with Rheumatic fever.' 6 He was nursed by his half-sister, Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908), and family, in Sloane Street, London. By 25 July Whistler felt better and told his mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), that he planned to recuperate by the sea. 7 It is not clear if he left immediately, but in mid-October du Maurier mentioned that 'Jimmy' was on the Côtes-du-Nord. 8 According to Whistler's mother he convalesced on the coast of Brittany, 'sea bathing recovering his health' for nearly three months. 9 It is not known exactly when he returned, as he may have travelled via London, or directly to Paris. He was certainly back in Paris by mid-November 1861, and remained there nearly all the winter, through March 1862. 10

1862: In November 1862, Whistler told Fantin-Latour that he wanted to return to London to finish 'la grande Tamise' for the Salon of 1863. 11

1863: In March Whistler moved into 7 Lindsey Row, Chelsea, where, in April, Joanna Hiffernan took Whistler's half-brother, George William Whistler (1822-1869), and Benjamin Moran (1820-1886), Secretary to the American Legation, to see Wapping. Moran admired the model and Whistler's 'remarkable pictures', and described one, 'a river scene at Blackwall ... A drunken sailor, with his Molly, is drinking and smoking on the balcony of a Thames grog shop and the river is one jam of vessels – ships, steamers, brigs, colliers and tugs.' 12

Towards the end of August or early September 1863, Whistler invited John O'Leary (1830-1907), Irish nationalist and journalist, to see 'my large picture of the Thames that I have nearly finished.' 13 On 9 December Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) described it as 'the noblest of all the pictures he has done hitherto' and available for purchase. 14 Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), who had lived in London since the summer of 1863, posed for Whistler. He replaced the figure of an old man in a white shirt. On 15 December Rossetti described the figure on the right as an English sailor 'hardly yet commenced', and the other male figure as 'done from Alphonse Legros, though painted in from him just as he was in the first instance, is to be quite differently continued, to represent a sort of Spanish sailor.' 15

1864: Whistler again stated his intention of sending the painting to the Salon:

'Je produis tres peu, parce que j'efface tant - Pour le salon de Paris j'ai l'intention d'envoyer mon tableau de la Tamise que tu as vu un jour avec Edwards - C'est tout changé comme premier plan, et je crois que cela fera bien à Paris - tu l'aimeras j'en suis sur - il y a un portrait de Legros et une tete de Jo qui sont de mes meilleurs.' 16

Translation: 'I produce very little, because I rub out so much - for the Paris Salon I am thinking of sending my picture of the Thames which you saw one day with Edwards - The foreground has quite changed, and I think it will do well in Paris - you will like it I'm sure - there is a portrait of Legros and a head of Jo which are among my best.'

On 10 February 1864 it was described by Whistler's mother Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881) as nearly finished:

'I think the finest painting he has yet done is one hanging now in this room, which three years ago took him so much away from me. It is called Wapping. The Thames & so much of its life, shipping, buildings, steamers, coal heavers, passengers going ashore, all so true to the peculiar tone of London & its river scenes, it is so improved by his perseverance to perfect it, a group on the Inn balcony has yet to have the finishing touches, he intends exhibiting it at Paris in May.' 17

On 25 February 1864 William Bell Scott (1811-1890) thought it to be 'a very fine thing' and having 'extraordinary power and distinctness at a distance', but considered the figures in the foreground to be 'just rubbed in, one of them merely in a tentative way, ... it is difficult to say how far he [Whistler] means them for finished.' 18

Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

It was presumably completed when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1864 as 'Wapping'. 19

Images

Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

F. Lathrop, Wapping, 1867, pencil, New York Public Library
F. Lathrop, Wapping, 1867, pencil, New York Public Library

Wapping, Pennell 1908, vol. 1, repr. p. 89
Wapping, Pennell 1908, vol. 1, repr. p. 89

Wapping, photograph, 1920s
Wapping, photograph, 1920s

Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown
Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown

Rotherhithe, etching, G70 5/6, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46752
Rotherhithe, etching, G70 5/6, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46752

The Thames and Tower of London from 'The Angel', Cherry Gardens, 2010
The Thames and Tower of London from 'The Angel', Cherry Gardens, 2010

Wapping, pencil, The Hunterian
Wapping, pencil, The Hunterian

Barges, pencil, The  Hunterian
Barges, pencil, The Hunterian

Wapping, 1861, pen, Library of Congress
Wapping, 1861, pen, Library of Congress

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

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

Alphonse Legros, photograph, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG P1273(20a)
Alphonse Legros, photograph, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG P1273(20a)

Subject

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

'Wapping' is the generally accepted title.

Description

Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A composition in horizontal format, with three figures sitting on a balcony overlooking the river Thames. The river is crowded with shipping, skiffs, barges, schooners, Thames barges, a tug with a red funnel. Rigging and sails create a complex network of line and colour. In the far background are warehouses along the river bank. On the balcony, in the foreground, sit, at left, a red-haired woman in a black v-necked dress and a man with black hair and beard in dark clothes, both facing three-quarter right. At far right is a man, his face in profile left, wearing a sailor's cap, and wearing dark clothes. The railings of the balcony slope up from lower left to the corner of the balcony at right, where there is a pillar (behind the bearded man), and at far right, a wooden ladder or window.

Site

It shows the balcony of a riverside pub, The Angel, on the River Thames at Cherry Gardens in Bermondsey, upstream from Rotherhithe on the south side of the river, and across from Wapping (seen also The Thames in Ice y036). 33 It was probably the 'chef d'oeuvre' which George du Maurier described Whistler as working on 'in secret' at Rotherhithe, London, in October 1860. 34

Whistler was conscious that his painting of the background resembled the etchings he was concurrently working on in and around Rotherhithe and Wapping between 1859 and 1861. In his letter to Fantin-Latour in 1861 he described the background as 'comme une eau forte.' 35

Rotherhithe, etching, G70 5/6, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46752
Rotherhithe, etching, G70 5/6, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46752

The Thames and Tower of London from 'The Angel', Cherry Gardens, 2010
The Thames and Tower of London from 'The Angel', Cherry Gardens, 2010

A comparison between Wapping and the etching Rotherhithe [70] makes this relationship clear. The etching is dated 1860: it was exhibited at the RA in 1862 as Rotherhithe and later published in the 'Thames Set' as 'Wapping'. It was drawn from the same balcony as the painting, and includes two men (probably sailors or longshoremen) but instead of looking downstream towards the Pool of London, the view as drawn on the plate shows the river upstream with the dome of St Paul's in the far distance. Another etching. The Little Rotherhithe [74], shows the same view as Rotherhithe but without the figures.

Moran in 1863 described the scene shown in the painting: 'the river is one jam of vessels – ships, steamers, brigs, colliers and tugs – while the air smells of tar and of that odor that Londoners swear kills those who live by the Thames.' 36

Just above the woman's right arm is what appears to be the bow of a dumb barge, that is, a hull used for transporting goods, which would be towed by a tug (like the steam-paddle tug with the tall red funnel in the centre background). 37 Behind the woman's head is a bowsprit and, above and to right, a blue spar and a mast with a part-furled sail, but the boat to which these are presumably attached is not visible. Seen behind this bowsprit, to left of her head, is what looks like a Thames sailing barge, spritsail rigged, with the hold open behind the mast; the spar sticking up at the bow is probably the bowsprit, raised to avoid damage in constricted waters. The black-hulled ships beyond look like topsail schooners, the common small workhorse of seaborne trade, and alongside the schooner at left is another small dumb barge with two men. 38

Sitter

The sitters were described in 1861 as:

'un vieux en chemise blanche celui du milieu qui regarde par la fenetre ... un matelot en casquette et en chemise bleu à grand col rabattu d'un bleu plus clair, qui cause avec une fille' ('an old man in a white shirt the one in the middle who is looking out of the window ... a sailor in a cap and a blue shirt with a big collar turned back in a lighter blue, who is chatting to a girl'). 39

THE WOMAN: Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886), Whistler's partner and chief model. He described her to Fantin-Latour as having hair 'd'un rouge non pas doré mais cuivré - comme tout ce qu'on a rêvé de Venitienne!' ('a red not golden but copper – as Venetian as a dream!') 40 The fact that Whistler did not mention her by name to Fantin-Latour suggests that they had not met at this date. Whistler had already painted her three times, he told Fantin in the same letter, giving her a mocking expression; she had, Whistler wrote, 'l'air superieurement putin' – meaning 'putain' – in other words, she looked like a whore.

It is quite possible that in 1859 Whistler had seen Thoughts of the Past, the first Royal Academy exhibit of J. R. Spencer Stanhope, which showed a 'guilt-ridden' red-haired prostitute by a window that looked out on the Thames, painted in vivid colour and Pre-Raphaelite detail. However, judging by Whistler's letter, in his original concept Hiffernan represented an unrepentant 'putain' with clients. 41

In April 1863 Benjamin Moran (1820-1886) met Joanna Hiffernan, 'an Irish girl with the golden tresses of a Venus and eyes as large as those of Juno', and described the figures as 'A drunken sailor, with his Molly ... drinking and smoking on the balcony of a Thames grog shop.' 42 This means that the model was depicted as a prostitute, and this was understood by viewers at that time.

In the letter of 1861 to Fantin-Latour, already quoted, Whistler described the woman as wearing a blouse that showed her neck almost completely, and a white jacket 'à grand arabesques et fleurs de toutes couleurs!' ('with big arabesques and flowers of all colours!'). 43 Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911), however, warned Whistler that the picture was unlikely to be accepted by the Academy because of the girl's open shirt, and Whistler replied that he would open the shirt more and more until he was elected an Academician and could hang the picture himself. 44

In the finished composition the woman's décolletage is less extreme than these comments suggest, and the dress is a sober black. It would seem that Whistler deliberately made the woman more modest for submission to the Royal Academy, rather than carry out his humorous threat to make her less so. The emphasis shifted as Whistler modified the figures, so that, shortly before it was submitted to the Royal Academy, Whistler's mother described the subject as 'a group on the Inn balcony.' 45 Indeed, as Ribner commented,

'Avoiding the hackneyed, sentimental facial expressions of conventional nineteenth century genre paintings, Whistler invests his figures with an oddly inexpressive aspect, which – as in the work of Manet – blurs the distinction between figural painting and real life.' 46

THE OLD MAN: The man in a white shirt, described by Whistler in 1861, was not identified by name.

Alphonse Legros, photograph, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG P1273(20a)
Alphonse Legros, photograph, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG P1273(20a)

He was replaced in 1863 by the figure of Alphonse Legros (1837-1911). D. G. Rossetti described the new male figure as 'done from Alphonse Legros, ... painted in from him just as he was in the first instance' but added that the figure 'is to be quite differently continued, to represent a sort of Spanish sailor.' 47 Legros had settled in London in the summer of 1863, and Whistler reported to Fantin-Latour by the following February that the painting was completely changed, and included a portrait of Legros. 48 Dark, bearded and sturdy as he was, it is doubtful if Legros could be interpreted as a 'sort of Spanish sailor', so it may be that Whistler preferred to leave it as a straightforward portrait.

THE SAILOR: The sailor at right, described by Whistler in 1861 as wearing a cap, and a blue shirt with a light blue collar, has not been named.

Walter Greaves (1846-1930) told the Pennells that the sailor corresponded 'in the description' to one of the boatmen from the Greaves's boat-building yard in Chelsea; but on being shown a photograph in January 1907 Greaves was 'puzzled' because it 'did not seem to him the picture he remembered.' 49 The Pennells commented that Whistler, when he started Wapping, was living and working in Rotherhithe, and so if the sailor was indeed 'a workman from the Greaves' shipbuilding yard, Chelsea', he must have posed later, because Whistler would not have met the Greaves family before he moved to Chelsea early in 1863. 50 However. Walter Greaves' identification of the sailor may well be correct since Rossetti described the figure as 'hardly yet commenced' on 15 December 1863. 51

Comments

Whistler and Fantin-Latour saw the Royal Academy exhibition in 1859. One of the paintings was Luff, Boy by James Clarke Hook (1819-1907) (private collection), which was much praised by John Ruskin (1819-1900). It has been suggested that the composition of Wapping was influenced by Hook's picture. Whistler was certainly well aware of Hook's work in 1862 and saw him as a potential rival (see Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz y041).

Technique

Composition

Wapping, pencil, The Hunterian
Wapping, pencil, The Hunterian

Barges, pencil, The Hunterian
Barges, pencil, The Hunterian

There are three drawings by Whistler that relate to this painting. The earliest, in pencil, are on pages in Whistler's passport, and are reproduced above. One shows a woman in dark dress and the old man in a white shirt leaning on the balcony railing, looking out over the river. The other sketch shows two barges. 52 X-rays of Wapping confirm that originally the old man was painted gazing out at the river scene beyond the balcony, with his arm apparently resting behind the girl's back. 53

Wapping, pen, Library of Congress
Wapping, pen, Library of Congress

Early in 1861, when Whistler sketched the painting for Fantin-Latour, the woman at left had been turned to face right, and the man in a white shirt sat at right, looking to left, at the woman. As described in the same letter, the old man in a white shirt was looking out of the window, and there was a sailor in the corner at right, while the woman wore a white jacket decorated with colourful arabesques and flowers. 54

The fact that in his letter Whistler twice asked Fantin-Latour not to mention anything about the picture to Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) suggests that Whistler jealously guarded the subject matter and believed it to be highly important. Yet quite apart from the later inclusion of Alphonse Legros, Whistler's original intentions with regard to subject matter were to be radically changed.

It is clear from Whistler's description that in its early stages, and long before he put the 'finishing touches' to the group on the inn balcony in February 1864, it looked quite different. Whereas the figures now appear to sit mute and self-contained on the inn balcony, Whistler originally attempted a quite different effect. In 1861, when he had already painted the girl three times, Whistler wrote to Fantin-Latour: 'Je suis arrivé à y mettre une expression ! ... une vraie expression ... un air de dire à son matelot "Tout ça est bon mon vieux! J'en ai vu d'autres !" tu sais elle cligne de l'oeil et elle se moque de lui!' 55

It was not until later, and probably in the summer of 1863 when Alphonse Legros came to live in London, that Whistler substituted for the 'vieux en chemise blanche, celui qui regarde par la fenêtre' a portrait of Legros, who is now seen looking out of the picture rather than through the balcony window.

D. G. Rossetti described the figure on the right as an English sailor 'hardly yet commenced', and the other male figure as 'done from Alphonse Legros, though painted in from him just as he was in the first instance, is to be quite differently continued, to represent a sort of Spanish sailor. Glasses etc. will be on the table.' 56

Whistler described it as 'tout changé comme premier plan ... il y a un portrait de Legros et une tête de Jo qui sont de mes meilleurs.' 57 A week later, on 10 February 1864, it was described by Whistler's mother as 'a group on the inn balcony', which, she said, 'has yet to have the finishing touches.' 58

Several etchings from the 'Thames Set', like Black Lion Wharf [54] have one or more figures in the foreground. Three young lads sitting on Stevens' Boat Yard [56] are similar in arrangement to the group in the painting. An impression of The Little Pool [79] has triangular rigging drawn in with crayon by Whistler, similar to that in Wapping.

Technique

Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Whistler described the difficulties of painting the figures in some detail in his letter to Fantin-Latour in 1861:

' une fille bigrement difficile a peindre! ... Tu sais je l'ai peint trois fois et je ne veux pas me fatiguer - ... C'est des cheveux les plus beaux ... d'un rouge non pas doré mais cuivré ... une peau blanche jaune ou dorée si tu veux ... Maintenant tout ça contre le jour et par conséquent dans une demie teinte attrocement difficile ... La gorge est exposée - la chemise se voit presque en entier qui est bien peinte.' 59
Translated: 'a girl who is jolly difficult to paint! ... I have painted her three times and I do not want to get tired - ... She has the most beautiful hair ... a red not golden but copper ... skin golden white or yellow if you will ... Now all that against the light and in consequence in atrociously difficult muted colours ... Her neck is exposed - her blouse can be seen almost entirely and how well it is painted.'

Frances Lathrop after Whistler, Wapping, 1867
Frances Lathrop after Whistler, Wapping, 1867

A jacket with puffed sleeves, and a patterned shawl or broad collar fastened at the waist, appear in a drawing of the painting by Francis Lathrop, but these patterns are not at all visible now. The drawing is said to date from 1867 but may have been started earlier.

Whistler experienced considerable difficulties with the painting of the figures and background, and in particular in catching the 'expression' of the woman, and the fleeting glimpses of shipping on the Thames. By this time he had already, he said, repainted the head of the woman three times, and, towards the end of his letter to Fantin-Latour, he described the painting of the background:

'Le fond ... etait difficile à ne pas y croire! Le ciel par exemple est tres vrai et cranement peint - il y en a un coin qui se voit à travers les vitraux qui est chic! - Plus pret il y a un rang de grands vaisseaux ... Il y a encore beaucoup de petits bateaux ... je t'assure que jamais ai-je entammé une chose aussi difficile - On est sur tu sais de dire que ce n'est pas fini - parce que comme les bateaux s'en vont je n'ai que juste le temps de mettre leurs valeurs en tons.' 60

Translation: 'The background … was unbelievably difficult! The sky for example is very truly and splendidly painted - there is a corner which can be seen through the window panes which is excellent! - Nearer that is a row of large boats ... There are also many small boats ... I assure you that I have never attempted such a difficult subject - it will certainly be said that it is not finished - because as the boats leave I have only just time to put in their shades of colour.'

Conservation History

In 1892 Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) enquired of an art dealer, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), whether there was anyone in New York who could attend to the condition of 'the Pool' about which Elsie Celeste Winans, Mrs G. McR. Hutton (1884-1966) was worried:

'Mr Whistler is going to write to Mrs Hutton. 938 Hollins St Baltimore for her picture of "the Pool" - We have heard it wants putting in order badly - but she is so frightened that it may be injured by injudicious cleaning that she will not trust it to anyone - This is of course just as dangerous - more - a great deal - for it will only get worse - What Mr Whistler is going to try and do is to persuade her to send it to him in Paris - so that it can be done - under his own direction - but supposing she is afraid of this - Could you persuade her to trust it to you - Who is the great New York cleaner?

Of course - It would have to be most carefully done.' 61

Wapping, Pennell 1908, vol. 1, repr. p. 89
Wapping, Pennell 1908, vol. 1, repr. p. 89

It was seen and described by the artist Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854 or 1855-d. 1920) in 1907 as 'having cracks a quarter of an inch wide in it.' 62 In the following year, the Pennells described the paint surface of Wapping as having suffered from Whistler's incomplete technical knowledge of medium and paint:

'Whistler never was taught, few artists are, the chemistry of his trade, and some of his paintings have suffered in consequence. The Music Room and The Thames in Ice, ... are wonderfully fresh and not cracked at all. They were probably painted more directly, certainly more thinly, than the Wapping, in which the paint seems to be as thickly piled as in the Piano Picture, which is also cracked. This no doubt came from his working over them repeatedly, probably on bad grounds. He had the painting of Wapping by him four years before he exhibited it. ... Later in life, Whistler gave great attention to this matter.' 63

Wapping, photograph, 1920s
Wapping, photograph, 1920s

Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown
Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown

20th century photographs reveal cracks across the more thickly painted areas (the 1920s photograph is faded, so the colour balance is misleading, but the cracks are obvious). By 1980, Wapping was in a somewhat battered and neglected condition, and the catalogue raisonné commented:

'Unfortunately, the present condition of Wapping, which was deteriorating by the 1890s ... now obscures what must once have been a striking and colourful picture. ... the two male figures dressed in blue, the modelling of all the flesh tones, the wineglass and tablecloth which once must have been highly coloured in red, blue and green, are all now severely muted and darkened. A much clearer idea of the costume details and the disposition of the figures round the table can be gained from Francis Lathrop's pencil drawing of Wapping, made in 1867.' 64

Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Wapping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

However, the painting was carefully conserved and fully restored in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, after its acquisition in 1982, and now looks magnificent.

Frame

Wapping in Winans' villa
Wapping in Winans' villa

Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown
Wapping, photograph, framed, date unknown

Grau-style, American, 1920s. Frame size 92.1 x 123.5 x 7.6 cm (36 1/4 x 48 5/8 x 3"). 65

History

Provenance

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.' 67

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.' 68

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.' 69 Whistler actually asked £250 for it, but the Scottish artist William Bell Scott (1811-1890) thought that was 'entirely too dear.' 70 It was offered for sale to James Leathart (1820-1895), but he did not go for it. 71

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.' 72 According to Fleming, Wapping was bought by Winans for £350. 73

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.' 74

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. 75

On Thomas Winans's death, his collection of paintings was bequeathed to his daughter, Celeste Marguerite Winans (Mrs G. M. Hutton). 76 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. 77

Exhibitions

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. 78 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'). 79

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. 80 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.' 81 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.' 82 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.' 83 The viewpoint was considered 'unusual' providing, as one critic wrote, an 'incomparable view of the Lower Pool of London.' 84 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.' 85

The following year, it was shown in New York. 86 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.' 87

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.' 88 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!' 89

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.' 90

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.' 91

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). 92 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.' 93 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. 94

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

COLLECTION:

EXHIBITIONS:

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 88-89, 91.

2: Du Maurier 1951 [more], pp. 16, 106.

3: Levy to Whistler, 5 April 1896, GUW #02517; the companions could have been Emma Du Maurier (d. 1915), née Wightwick, and Alexander Ionides (1840-1898). However, it is also possible that 'Annie' was Joanna Hiffernan.

4: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042. This letter is now in the Library of Congress.

5: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 10-11 February 1864, GUW #06522.

6: Letter from George du Maurier to his sister Isabel, dated from a reference to the recent Crystal Palace Rose Show of 6 July 1861. Du Maurier 1951 [more], p. 56.

7: 19 August 1861, GUW #06517.

8: Letter to his mother, Mrs du Maurier, dating from shortly after 12 October 1861, Du Maurier 1951 [more], p.84.

9: Letter to J. W. Gamble, 19 February 1862, GUW #06518.

10: D. Louncke to Whistler, 14 November 1861, GUW #02638.

11: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [12/19 November 1862], GUW #07952.

12: Wallace, Sarah Agnes, and Frances Elma Gillespie (eds.), The Journals of Benjamin Moran 1857–1865, vol. 2, Chicago, 1949, p. 1149.

13: [18 or 25 August, or 1 or 8 September 1863], GUW #09333.

14: Rossetti to J. Leathart, 9 December 1863, GUW #12441.

15: Rossetti to J. Leathart, 15 December 1863, University of British Columbia.

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

17: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, GUW #06522.

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

19: 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1864 (cat. no. 585).

20: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [12/19 November 1862], GUW #07952.

21: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 10-11 February 1864, GUW #06522.

22: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [5/26] April [1864], GUW #08038.

23: 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1864 (cat. no. 585).

24: Seventh Annual Exhibition, New York Artists' Fund Society, held at the Galleries of the National Academy of Design, New York, 1866 (cat. no. 360); press cutting in GUL Whistler PC I, p. 5.

25: 85th exhibition Salon de 1867, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1867 or] Exposition Universelle/ Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867 (1st edition, cat. no. 76), (2nd edition, cat. no. 69).

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

27: Exhibition catalogue Charity Art Exhibition, Baltimore 1876 [more] (cat. no. 39).

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

29: Whistler to J. A. Rose, [November 1878], GUW #08784.

30: B. Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [22 October/November 1892], GUW #09703.

31: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [3 August 1899], GUW #09796.

32: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 35).

33: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 85, 88.

34: Du Maurier 1951 [more], pp. 16, 106.

35: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042.

36: Wallace, Sarah Agnes, and Frances Elma Gillespie (eds.), The Journals of Benjamin Moran 1857–1865, vol. 2, Chicago, 1949, p. 1149.

37: Dumb barges vary from narrow canal boats, which were towed by horses, to big, steel construction barges with a large open hold, towed by tugs in rafts of maybe six or more barges. We are grateful for information from Iain P. MacInnes, Dartmouth, N.S., in email to M. F. MacDonald, 19 December 2020.

38: MacInnes 2020, op. cit. See also Edgar J. Marsh, Spritsail barges of Thames and Medway, International Marine Pub. Co., 1970, p. 7.

39: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042.

40: Ibid..

41: Spencer 1982 [more]. MacDonald, Margaret, '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, pp. 18-19 (cat. no. 29).

42: Wallace, Sarah Agnes, and Frances Elma Gillespie (eds.), The Journals of Benjamin Moran 1857–1865, vol. 2, Chicago, 1949, p. 1149.

43: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042.

44: Armstrong to Pennell, 8 September 1907, LC PC; Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 89.

45: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, 10 February 1864, GUW #06522.

46: Ribner, Jonathan, in Lochnan, Katharine, Turner, Whistler, Monet, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Tate Britain, London, 2004-2005 (cat. no. 26).

47: Rossetti to J. Leathart, 15 December 1863, University of British Columbia.

48: 3 February 1864, GUW #08036.

49: Pennell 1921C [more], pp. 119, 122, 161.

50: Pennell 1908, op. cit., pp. 88, 91; Pennell 1921, op. cit., pp. 119, 122, 161.

51: D. G. Rossetti to J. Leathart, 15 December 1863, University of British Columbia.

52: Passport, [May 1862/1864], GUW #12745; Passport m0298, pp. 43, 45.

53: Spencer 1982 [more], fig. 1.

54: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042; Wapping m0299.

55: Whistler to Fantin-Latour, [January/June 1861], GUW #08042.

56: Rossetti to J. Leathart, 15 December 1863, University of British Columbia.

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

58: A. M. Whistler to Gamble, GUW #06522.

59: [January/June 1861], GUW #08042.

60: Ibid.

61: B. Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, [22 October / November 1892], GUW #09703.

62: Pennington to J. Pennell, 1 February 1907, LC PC.

63: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 91.

64: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 35).

65: Dr Sarah L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017; see also Parkerson 2007 [more].

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

67: GUW #07080.

68: 4 November and 9 December 1863, University of British Columbia; GUW #12441.

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

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

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

72: GUW #12624, #07081.

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

74: 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.

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

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

77: 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.

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

79: [5/26] April [1864], GUW #08038.

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

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

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

83: '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).

84: 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.

85: '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.

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

87: [6 April 1867], GUW #09192. Randall 1979 [more], p. 238.

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

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

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

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

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

93: [20 February 1892], GUW #08219.

94: 4 August 1899, GUW #07317.