Black Lion Wharf

James McNeill Whistler, 1859

WAG 2494

About this object

'Black Lion 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'.

One of the few plates Whistler etched in reverse, this image appears the correct way round. A version of this print hung in Whistler’s house at Lindsey Row (later Cheyne Walk), and featured in his famous portrait of his mother.

Whistler conveys the wharf’s filthy conditions by using various textures on the smoke-blackened brick, tiled roofs and crumbling timbers. The ‘selection and omission’ technique championed by Haden was described by Pennell: “Every single line has a meaning…if one were taken away there would be a break in the design…He gives in this plate the impression that he has drawn every brick, every tile, every plank…he has done nothing of the sort, but he makes you think so; and this is the art of concealing art by art”.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    James McNeill Whistler (American, born:1834-07-10, died:1903-07-17)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Ink; Paper; Etching; Drypoint
  • Measurements
    plate mark: 15.3 cm x 22.9 cm
  • Physical description
    A river view of warehouses and buildings with various boats occupying the water in the middleground and a male figure is seated on a boat in the foreground. The figure is cut off at the knees and turned to the right leaning his arm on the side of the boat.
  • Related people
    James Smith (Previous owner) ; James McNeill Whistler (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 2494; Accession Number: WAG 2494
  • Credit line
    Bequeathed to the Walker Art Gallery 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 1859 (lower right)
    Inscription method: Imprinted
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right; on plate
  • Inscription text: 2876 B/IN 2494
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right; below plate
Object view = Fine Art
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