Eagle Wharf

James McNeill Whistler, 1859

WAG 677

About this object

'Eagle Wharf' 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'.

The three prints 'Eagle Wharf', 'Black Lion Wharf' and 'The Pool' all draw attention to working figures in the centre of the composition. The men are disproportionately larger than their surroundings.

The boy seated in the boat obstructs the viewer’s gaze from entering the composition. This could represent a boundary between the higher and lower classes. Whistler, like the viewer, is on the outside, looking in.

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 watermark. A watermark is an imprinted design which can be used to identify the papermaker. The watermark is shown here in transmitted light (lit from beneath the paper). This variation belonged to the Dutch papermakers De Erven de Blauw (imprinted across the centre of the paper) from about 1822.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    James McNeill Whistler (American, born:1834-07-10, died:1903-07-17)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Ink; Etching; Paper
  • Measurements
    plate mark: 13.8 cm x 21.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A dock scene with a male figure sitting in a boat that is positioned horizontally across the foreground. Water is shown at right and warehouses visible at left. One building has a sign that reads "ZAC WHITELEY & CO". Further ships can be seen in the background.
  • Related people
    James Smith (Previous owner) ; James McNeill Whistler (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 677
  • 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


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: WHISTER 1859 (on plate)
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Base; Centre; Front
Object view = Fine Art
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