Thames Warehouses

James McNeill Whistler, 1859

WAG 1307

About this object

'Thames Wareshouses' was published in 1871 by Messrs Ellis and Green as part of 'Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects', known more widely as the 'Thames Set'.

This is the view from Tunnel Pier in Wapping. It is the same view point as The Pool (also displayed in this room) but looking in the opposite direction. Customs officials were stationed at Tunnel pier and this provided a safe place for Whistler to draw.

Whistler has used various techniques to produce tone and texture, most noticeably the use of line and cross-hatching on the warehouses. A sand or salt grain has possibly been used in the areas around the foreground boats.

New conservation work has enabled us to identify the paper Whistler used for these prints. Whistler was very selective about paper. This wasnt unusual. The Etching Revival had instigated a new interest in the aesthetic tone and structure of paper. Following Rembrandts example most etchers preferred Old Dutch paper or silky Japanese paper. Whistler searched stationers and old book shops in London, Paris and Amsterdam looking for these papers. Old Dutch paper was made from boiled and beaten rags drained on wire moulds. It was high quality with a ribbed texture and creamy in colour. Japanese paper was made from the bark of a mulberry tree. It varied in thickness and its tone could vary from pale cream to a pronounced yellow.

The paper used for these prints can be identified by its beehive watermark. A watermark is an imprinted design which can be used to identify the papermaker. The beehive watermark is shown here in transmitted light (lit from beneath the paper). The beehive is associated with the Honig (honey) family of Dutch papermakers who owned mills in Zaandijk, North Holland. The coat of arms on this watermark was widely copied throughout the Netherlands and came to represent Dutch papermaking more generally. Initialled DEDB (beneath the beehive) this variation belonged to the Dutch papermakers De Erven de Blauw from about 1822. The design shows a central beehive motif surrounded by ornate scrollwork of leaves and flowers crowned with a fruit tree.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    The Thames, from the Tunnel Pier; Frederick Vink, Wharfinger; View of the Thames from Thames Tunnel Pier; View up the River; warehouses on Thames; Thames Warehouses, from Thames Tunnel Pier; Fred. Vinck & Co.
  • Artist(s)
    James McNeill Whistler (American, born:1834-07-10, died:1903-07-17)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Ink; Etching; Dry point; Paper
  • Measurements
    plate mark: 7.6 cm x 20.2 cm
  • Physical description
    View of warehouses along a river bank. Water at right and buildings at left. Various vessels are moored in the water, most prominently a small boat in the foreground on the left. The warehouses have signs that read 'SMITH & SON', 'ROPE & SAIL MAKERS' and FREDk VINK & Co'.
  • Related people
    James Smith (Previous owner) ; James McNeill Whistler (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 1307; Accession Number: WAG 1307
  • Credit line
    Bequeathed to the Walker Art Galllery by James Smith of Blundellsands in 1923
  • Location
    Sudley House, First Floor, Special Exhibitions Room
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • James Smith

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1923
    Disposal method: Bequeathed to the Walker Art Gallery, 1923


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: Whistler 1859
    Inscription method: Printed
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right; On plate
Object view = Fine Art
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