Limehouse by James Abbot McNeill Whistler (1834–1903). 1859. Etching and drypoint, sheet 7 1/8 x 9 3/8 inches (18.2 x 23.8 cm) printed in black ink on thick laid paper, 5 x 7 7/8 inches (12.5 x 19.8 cm); inscribed in another hand ‘Limehouse W.37 Trial proof before drypoint sky’, an impression in the third state (of six), before publication in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects, (the Thames Set) published by Ellis & Green in 1871. Source: Whistler on the Thames. [Click on image to enlarge it.]


The barge in the foreground and the top of the riverside buildings are cut off by the edge of the plate, bringing the subject close to the viewer. The tangle of boats, posts, walkways, gangplanks, stairs and masts is set against the ships moored beyond. Limehouse is an area in East London on the north bank of the Thames, east of Wapping and opposite Rotherhithe. The etching is the most easterly of the Thames subjects and the view is reversed. Whistler returned to the area to make a lithotint [fig.10] in 1878 when he started experimenting with this medium.

Impressions of Limehouse were exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum and at the Royal Academy of Arts (975) in 1861, and at the Paris Salon de Refusés (2756) in 1863. The subject was published in A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects, (the Thames Set) in 1871 (no.12). The plate was sold by F. Keppel & Co. to Charles Lang Freer in 1896 and is now in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art.

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Kennedy, Edward G. The Etched Work of Whistler. New York: 1910. no.40

MacDonald, Margaret F. Grischka Petri, Meg Hausberg, and Joanna Meacock. James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné. University of Glasgow, 2011. Web.

Whistler on the Thames. London: The Fine Art Society, 2013. No. 1; pp. 16-17.

drawings by Whistler

Last modified 21 May 2014