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An original etching printed in black ink on Japan paper, signed in the plate with the artist’s butterfly monogram lower left. This work is an extremely fine, richly printed, unrecorded proof impression, falling between Kennedy’s second and third (and final) states, after the addition of the fine horizontal drypoint shading to the square building at the far left but before the removal of the broken, irregular cloud outline in the sky upper left. printed after the addition of the butterfly to the plate, with subtle plate tone as issued by Whistler himself circa 1879. Catalogue raisonné reference: Kennedy 181 ii-iii/iii; Mansfield 178 Grolier Club 148; Wedmore 147.
This study is one of the finest of the Thames studies that Whistler made in 1879. Having fallen out with his patron Fredrick Leyland over Whistler’s decoration of the “Peacock Room” at the Leyland estate, and with only a moral victory in his libel case against controversial art critic John Ruskin, he was inundated with debts. In an effort to make some money he returned to the Thames subjects that had previously brought success.
In “Hurlingham” the strong emphasis on the sailboats is somewhat unusual for the Thames etchings of the late 1870’s. In retrospect, this focus sets the stage for some of the Venetian subjects that followed soon after in the same year. To some extent, the rather scratchy line in this etching is reminiscent of landscape elements in Whistler’s etchings of two decades earlier.
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