Rotherhithe, one of the "Sixteen Etchings," or the "Thames Set"

Accession Number

Rotherhithe, one of the "Sixteen Etchings," or the "Thames Set"

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching and drypoint on laid Japan tissue

14 1/2 in x 11 in (36.83 cm x 27.94 cm);22 1/16 in x 18 1/8 in (56.04 cm x 46.04 cm)

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
Rotherhithe, from Sixteen Etchings, or the Thames Set
Etching and drypoint on laid Japan tissue
Third state of three (Kennedy 66)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.345
Rotherhithe, which depicts the balcony of The Angel tavern on the southern side of the Thames looking across to Wapping, is a compendium of different etching styles: the crisp detailed hatching of the rigging of adjacent vessels, the tavern’s balcony, and the view of distant buildings as the bank curves to the left are evidence of Whistler’s nearly topographical interest in the details of the life on the river; in contrast, the two bargemen are captured with fluid drypoint lines.
Whistler’s interest in onsite sketching is evident in this etching: the faint vertical line in the sky resulted from a brick falling nearby, startling the artist as he worked on the plate.

Subject matter
Whistler spent several months in the commercial districts of London during 1859 and his etchings of the warehouses, docks, and people of Battersea and, in this instance Wapping, became the foundation of the Thames Set etchings, published in 1871. Densely clustered lines and careful observation characterize these views along the Thames. Charles Baudelaire celebrated the modernity of these views of London when a group of them were shown in Paris in 1862, describing them as “subtle and lively as improvisation and inspiration,” expressing with their “wonderful tangles of rigging, yardarms and rope; farragos of fog, furnaces and corkscrews of smoke; the profound and intricate poetry of a vast capital.”

Physical Description
Two men smoking long-stem pipes are seen sitting on a balcony. Behind them are visible the masts of ships along the bank, and further behind them in the distance a river sweeps towards the left. Buildings crowd the shore and boats are shown moored or in the river.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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docks (general waterside structures)
water (inorganic material)
water towers

1 Related Resource

(Part of: Exchange and Influence on Global Trade Routes)

& Author Notes

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