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Rotherhithe, from 16 Etchings or The Thames Set

19th century
36.5 cm x 23.6 cm (14 3/8 in. x 9 5/16 in.)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (Lowell (Massachusetts), 1834 - 1903, London) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Etching and drypoint
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Teaching Collection of Marvin Vexler, '48, with a matching contribution from Julia Wilkinson, 2000
Accession Number: 2000.45

Shortly after settling in London in 1859, Whistler created his second series of etchings, the sixteen plates that would be published in 1871 as “The Thames Set”. Recording vignettes along the river, these plates were realist in subject and naturalistic in conventions going back 17th-century Dutch etching and recently revitalized by etchers like Meryon and Bracquemond in Paris. They became the virtual constitution of the Etching Revival in England and the United States. Rotherhithe is the largest and most complex plate in the Set. The informal subject, mixing harbor view and genre scene, is typical. The composition, however, is unusual in its proportions, cropping, and divisions, which diminish any conventional middleground and emphasize the perimeter. These indicate Whistler’s awareness of Japanese prints as well as photography, and predict the modernist character of his later etchings. This impression is distinguished by rich plate tone that gives the sky weight, meticulous wiping that makes the horizon luminous, and dark brown ink that warms the entire scene. Likely printed by Eugène Delâtre, a great exponent of individuality in impressions, it is perhaps the finest in existence.

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