Sketches on the Coast Survey Plate

James McNeill Whistler American

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.

Sketches on the Coast Survey Plate, James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London), Etching, printed in black ink on a complete sheet of linen-textured ivory laid paper with MBM watermark appearing twice; only state (Glasgow)

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