Old Hungerford Bridge

James McNeill Whistler, 1861

WAG 1583

About this object

'Old Hungerford Bridge' 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 Old Hungerford foot bridge was replaced by a railway bridge that led into Charing Cross Station in 1864. Whistler shows workers on the bridge during its renovation, with the Houses of Parliament visible behind.

Whistler’s first experience of the River Thames was in 1843 when he and his family travelled to Russia to join his father. En route, they sailed from Boston to Liverpool, visiting relatives in Preston, before travelling to Hamburg via London. Boatmen rowed the Whistler family along the quiet Thames by lamplight in the predawn mist. This was a vision of the River Whistler was to recreate for the rest of his life.

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
    Paper; Ink; Etching; Drypoint
  • Measurements
    plate mark: 13.9 cm x 21.5 cm
  • Physical description
    View of a suspension bridge seen from above, with work being completed on the left. Various vessels in the foreground and city visible in the distance.
  • Related people
    James Smith (Previous owner) ; James McNeill Whistler (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 1583; Accession Number: WAG 1583
  • 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: WHISTLER
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Lower right on plate
Object view = Fine Art
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