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Print - Black Lion Wharf
  • Black Lion Wharf
    Whistler, James Abbott McNeill, born 1834 - died 1903
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Black Lion Wharf

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (etched)

  • Date:

    1859 (etched)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Whistler, James Abbott McNeill, born 1834 - died 1903 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching and drypoint on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case EE, shelf 1, box D

During his formative years in Paris in the 1850s, Whistler was influenced by the injunctions of the poet and theorist Charles Baudelaire that artists should take subjects from 'modern life' and seek a new beauty in the teeming cities. Whistler's first major suite of prints, his 'French Set' brought critical acclaim but disappointing sales. Seeking more generous patrons, he moved to London in 1859. Initially under the influence of his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden, a pioneer of the 'etching revival', he began a series of superbly observed and finely detailed views of the River Thames with its shipping, thriving wharves and picturesque characters.

'Black Lion Wharf', the most famous of Whistler's Thames Set subjects, was one of his personal favourites; a framed impression of it appears in the background of his celebrated Portrait of Whistler's mother. It attracted many imitators. The minute and crisp delineation of bricks and old woodwork of the wharf buildings inspired the romantic prints made by Graham Sutherland and other young etchers in the late 1920s.

Physical description

Etching by James Whistler, ‘Black Lion Wharf’ from the Thames Set; etched 1859. In addition to early impressions the plate was printed and issued in 1871 as one of the ‘Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, and Other Subjects,’ by Ellis and Green, 32 King Street, Covent Garden, in editions of one hundred. Signed and dated by the artist in plate. River view: in the foreground, a docker in cap and jacket sits sideways facing right in a barge on the river. Behind him, boats moored at a landing-stage. In the background, warehouses and dwellings receding on the curving shore of the river’s edge, one building to the right lettered ‘Blac Lion Wharf’ (omitting the ‘k’).

Place of Origin

London (etched)


1859 (etched)


Whistler, James Abbott McNeill, born 1834 - died 1903 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Etching and drypoint on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Whistler. 1859.'
Signed and dated by the artist in plate.


Height: 15.2 cm plate, Width: 22.6 cm plate, Height: 266 mm paper, Width: 357 mm paper

Object history note

W.40, 1st state; K.42, 2nd state.

Descriptive line

Etching by James Whistler, 'Black Lion Wharf' from the Thames Set; etched 1859. 51077.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wedmore, Frederick. Whistler's Etchings, A Study and a Catalogue. London: Colnaghi & Co, 1899. No.40, 1st state.
Kennedy, Edward G. The Etched Work of Whistler. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1978. No.42, 2nd state.


Paper; Printing ink


Etching (printing process); Drypoint

Subjects depicted

Marines (visual works); Commerce; Workers; Rivers; Wharves; Boats; Warehouses




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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