Unframed etching print - one of three by Whistler found in the pages of a bible during a Massachusetts estate auction. Attached to a backing with unknown origin printed numbers that may connect to a Whistler catalog raisonne. The original "Sketching" was first published in a Junior Etching Club portfolio entitled, Passages from Modern English Poets in 1862 by Day & Son in London. It was placed within the text to illustrate a poem by Charles MacKay (1814-1889) entitled, A River Scene, and was initially listed in the table of contents under that title. In total Whistler contributed two original etchings and drypoints to the publication, which consisted of a total of forty-seven prints etched by members of the Club. There are 6 states and 35 known impressions. This print is from one of the first four states, as the fifth state has 'Pl. 45' engraved in the upper right corner and the sixth state eliminated the publisher's address along the lower margin (clearly visible in this state). "Sketching" represents a prime, original example of the landscape art created by the American/British artist, James A. McNeill Whistler. Dated from 1862. An intriguing piece. Measures 5" x 6.75" inches sight and 6" x 7.5" with backing included, unframed, and in a protective translucent sleeve.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, James Whistler became one of the most influential late 19th-century American painters and etchers, although he lived primarily in England. He worked in a wide variety of styles that included Impressionism, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau. He was especially influential in the Tonalist movement and was a catalyst for those who wanted to break away from prescribed academic methods, credited with being the first American modernist to influence European art.
He also created 179 lithographs, having received a commission in 1879, and from that time, he worked in graphics, pastel, and watercolor, and favorite subjects were subtly delineated cityscapes or ships at docks.
He was raised both in New England and in Russia where his father, an engineer, was commissioned by the Czar to build the Moscow-St. Petersburg railroad. In 1847, Whistler went to London for his sister's wedding to Seymour Haden, a key figure in 19th century etching, and association with this man stimulated Whistler's interest in that medium.
After the father's death in 1849, the family returned to the United States, and he entered the Military Academy at West Point where he did illustrations for student publications and also worked as surveyor and cartographer in U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Surveys.
In 1855, determined to have a fine art career, he sailed for Europe and never returned to the United States. He studied in Paris with Charles Gleyre and became a part of avant-garde circles that included Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Edgar Degas. In 1859, he settled in England but stayed in close touch with his Parisian friends.
His style was independent of realism and of those who thought art should have a moral purpose. To many his paintings were a mystery because they seemed dreamy, abstract, and somewhat ghost-like. For some of his works, he chose musical titles to remove them from narrative context.
In the 1880s and '90s, Whistler continued to paint landscapes and seascapes capturing ephemeral effects and portrait-arrangements combining realistic portrayals of often elegant figures and delicate color harmonies. He also continued his involvement with printmaking, creating etchings and lithographs. He settled in Paris in 1892, opening the Académie Carmen there in 1898. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Whistler's art gained international recognition. A large exhibition of his paintings was held in New York in 1889, and in the same year he was awarded medals in Munich, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Whistler's works are in numerous private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Tate Gallery, London; the Louvre, Paris; the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D,C.; the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
"Sketching" - signed-in-plate etching print (James Abbott McNeill Whistler)
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