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Lithographs

Whistler took up lithography in 1878 with the encouragement of the London printer Thomas Way, and prompted by revived interest in the medium among French painters like Corot, Degas and Fantin-Latour. At first he drew directly onto lithographic printing stones, but he soon followed the example of his French colleagues by working on transfer paper, from which the image was transferred onto the stone. This gave the same freedom as making a drawing.

After a gap of eight years Whistler resumed making lithographs in 1887. Using subtle techniques and choice materials he created prints with the delicacy of drawings, leaving large borders around the figures so that the images seem to float. The sense of refinement and suggestion appealed to the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who became friends with Whistler at this time.


Nocturne: The River at Battersea

Object Number P.438-1949

Lithotint printed on machine-made wove paper, 1878

One of five lithotints of the Thames made in 1878, this was drawn from memory at the offices of the printer Thomas Way. The view across the Thames from Whistler's house in Lindsey Row, Chelsea (see Cheyne Walk, Chelsea), had featured in his work for almost twenty years. Prominent are the steeple of St Mary's Church and the smokestacks and clock tower of Morgan Crucible Company, notorious for emissions that contributed to 'the almost perpetual obscuration of the prospect, the blurring of distant objects, and the complete veiling on nine days out of ten of everything beyond two miles.' This proof on white paper was printed before the sides of the image were masked to tidy the irregular edge of washes. The published state was printed on blue paper, increasing the sense of smog.

Bequeathed by Campbell Dodgson 1949

P.438-1949


Draped figure, standing

Object Number P.288-1954

Lithograph printed on thick Japanese paper, 1891

In the late 1880s and 90s Whistler made numerous pastel drawings and lithographs of dancers and figures draped in transparent fabric. He was partly inspired by Greek 'Tanagra' figurines, which his friends were collecting around 1890.

Whistler made seven colour lithographs in Paris with the printer Henry Belfond in 1891-3. This image was developed as a colour print using first three and then up to six additional stones, but impressions like this were printed using only the main stone (keystone); missing elements (such as the feet) were added in the colour stones or in later states of the keystone.

Like Nude model, standing (below) this print was drawn on the smoother transfer paper that Whistler discovered in 1891 courtesy of Fantin-Latour.

Given by G. J. F. Knowles 1954

P.288-1954


Nude model, standing

Object Number P.94-1959

Lithograph printed on thick Japanese paper, c.1891

One of a group of six lithographs of draped figures probably drawn in late October or early November 1891 when Whistler spent a week working on colour lithographs with the Parisian printer Belfond. Like Draped Figure, standing (above), Whistler may have intended to develop this image as a colour print, but only a few proofs exist and they are all printed from one stone, most of them on the Japanese paper that Belfond preferred for proofing.

Especially in the 1890s, Whistler preferred teenage girls as models for thinly draped nudes. In his 'Ten O'Clock' lecture (1888) he described the ancient Greek inspiration of 'the measured rhyme of lovely limb and draperies flowing in unison', a theme shared by the Symbolist poet Mallarmé and his circle.

Bequeathed by G. J. F. Knowles 1959

P.94-1959

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The Winged Hat

Object Number P.2093-R

Lithograph printed on thin Japanese paper, 1890

After his marriage to Beatrice Godwin in August 1888, Whistler made a number of lithographs of her close family, especially her assured and elegant sister Ethel Birnie Philip, whom he nicknamed 'Bunnie'. Like Suede Gloves below this print shows Bunnie wearing a fashionable plumed hat. Both were drawn in early autumn 1890 and preceded Whistler's more formal, painted portraits of her.

This proof was hand-printed, but the image was also machine-printed in a large edition published in October 1890 in the new periodical The Whirlwind, after being transferred to new stones. Whistler sent several copies of The Whirlwind to be distributed in Paris by Mallarmé, who admired the draughtsmanship as 'biting and elegant, of supreme charm'.

Given by Sir Herbert Thompson 1920

P.2093-R


Suede Gloves

Object Number P.93-1959

Lithograph printed on 'antique' laid paper, 1890

One of a pair of studies (with The Winged Hat above) showing Whistler's sister-in-law, Ethel 'Bunnie' Philips, in fashionable attire. Ethel's sister Beatrice Whistler referred to this print as 'Le Mosquetaire' (a name for the sort of glove worn by a musketeer).

This delicate proof was hand-printed on the eighteenth-century paper that Whistler loved to use for printing. His approval is marked by the addition of his butterfly in graphite (pencil), in addition to the butterfly that was printed as part of the lithograph.

A separate edition was machine-printed in large numbers on modern machine-made paper to appear in the journal The Studio in April 1894.

Bequeathed by G. J. F. Knowles 1959

P.93-1959



The Red Dress

Object Number P.95-1959

Lithograph printed on machine made laid paper, 1894

A number of late lithographs feature Whistler's wife Beatrice, or her sister Birnie, in the interior or garden of the house in Rue du Bac, Paris, where the Whistlers moved in 1892. This is one of two portraits of Beatrice drawn on a single evening, 22 September 1894. She was already suffering from the cancer that killed her in May 1896, leaving Whistler devastated.

The embossed blind stamp indicates that this is one of the impressions published in November 1895 in The Studio. The original stone was printed onto transfer paper and transferred (with corrections) onto other stones to sustain the machine-printing of this large edition. The effect is crude compared to Suede Gloves above.

Bequeathed by G. J. F. Knowles 1959

P.95-1959

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