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Sketches on the Coast Survey Plate

Artist:
James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London)
Date:
1854–55
Medium:
Etching; only state (Glasgow); printed in black ink on a complete sheet of linen-textured ivory laid paper with MBM watermark appearing twice
Dimensions:
Plate: 5 3/4 x 10 3/16 in. (14.6 x 25.9 cm) Sheet: 10 3/8 × 16 5/16 in. (26.4 × 41.5 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917
Accession Number:
17.3.1
Not on view
Whistler made his first etching while employed as a draftsman at the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington, D.C., between 1854 and 1855. A staff member taught him the technique and supplied him with a copper plate, on which he etched topographic renderings of coastlines, then sketched freely drawn figures, and an oval vignette representing "Mrs. Partington and Ike"—characters from a Mark Twain story. The hooded hidalgo, or minor Spanish nobleman, at upper right is likely a self-portrait that hints at the artist’s bubbling ambition. Within a few months, he would be in Paris, pursing an artistic career.
Inscription: In graphite: at bottom of sheet, left: "Whistler's first etching. For doing this he was dismissed from the Coast Survey - 8" [not by Whistler];Glasgow notes this is untrue. In graphite: lower right corner of sheet: "K. 1" and "20-" , various hands [not Whistler]
Harris Brisbane Dick (American, 1855–1916); Vendor: Dick Estate, U.S. Trust
Kennedy 1 only state; Glasgow 1 only state; Mansfield 1
Howard Mansfield A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Drypoints of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Caxton Club, 1909, cat. no. 1.

Edward Guthrie Kennedy, Royal Cortissoz The Etched Work of Whistler: illustrated by reproductions in collotype of the different states of the plates. The Grolier Club, 1910, cat. no. 1 only state.

Katharine A. Lochnan The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler. Ex. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 14–November 11, 1984; The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, November 24, 1984–January 13, 1985. Yale University Press, Art Gallery of Ontario, New Haven, 1984, cat. no. 1, pp. 12-16, 25, 277.

Margaret F. MacDonald, Grischka Petri, Joanna Meacock James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné, University of Glasgow on-line website at http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk. University of Glasgow, 2012, cat. no. 1 only state.



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