Billingsgate (Billingsgate Market) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Billingsgate (Billingsgate Market) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Billingsgate (Billingsgate Market)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler


Billingsgate (Billingsgate Market)

etching with drypoint 
Image Size
6 x 8 7/8" platemark 
within image "Whistler", lower right center 
Edition Size
There was an edition of 100 plus a printing for The Portfolio (1878) and "Etching and Etchers" in 18 
dated "59" in plate. 
Glasgow 51; Kennedy 47; M.46; T.34; W.45 
heavy antique-white laid, no watermark 
Philip G. Hamerton for "The Portfolio" in 1878 
Inventory ID

"Billingsgate" was done in 1859 and was published in 'The Portfolio', London, 1878. This impression is from that edition, state 8 of 9.

The Glasgow raisonné entry for this image notes: "Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) published Billingsgate, in this eighth state, in the January 1878 issue of The Portfolio, printed on contemporary laid paper that can be either cream or ivory in colour. Some sheets of paper used for the 1878 volumes of The Portfolio bear watermarks of the Van Gelder paper mill, either an arabesque or escutcheon, which is difficult to decipher, or the words 'VAN GELDER' and 'PORTFOLIO'. The sheet size of Portfolio impressions, as issued, is approximately 217 x 355 mm, and the etching was inserted next to page 8 of the text, where Hamerton discussed the print briefly.

Hamerton published Billingsgate again, in 1880, in the third edition of his book Etching and Etchers, opposite page 231. The etching, in its final ninth state, was printed for this edition on heavy-weight ivory 'modern' (post-1800) laid paper. The sheet measures about 205 x 308mm, as issued, and there is often offsetting on the back of the sheet from type on the next page of the book. Impressions for Etching and Etchers are printed in black ink with light overall platetone, although the edges of the image are wiped clean of tone within the platemark and often slightly within the bevel. Many impressions of the ninth state are still bound in the book.

Billingsgate was published a third time in 'A Group of Etchers' by S.G.W. Benjamin in 1882. 15 Impressions for A Group of Etchers are on 'modern' cream laid paper that measures approximately 285 x 432 mm, as bound. They are printed in black ink, with very pale plate tone that extends to the platemark, across the beveled edges of the image. The volume is unpaginated, and Billingsgate appears among the etchings in the back half of the book. Some are still bound in the book, some have been removed.

It appears that the copper plate's life extended beyond the three publications, as the latest impressions show foul biting along the top bevel that was not present in the 1882 printing. Furthermore, the cancelled plate was sold to the Toledo Museum of Art in 1927 by Albert Rouillier Art Galleries, Chicago. This is an indication that it had been in the hands of printsellers for at least some of the time after its last official publication in 1882.

There are only a few impressions of the first seven states, over a dozen of the eighth, and over fifty of the final state in public art collections. It is not known exactly how many impressions were printed for publication. Most were bound into volumes of The Portfolio and Etching and Etchers and are still in libraries. However, many of these etchings have been cut out of the volumes, and trimmed to various sizes, and these appear regularly on the market and in public and private collections."

Lochnan notes that among Whistler's etchings of the Port of London, 'The most westerly site chosen was Billingsgate fish market, probably etched from Custom House Stairs.'

Britain's largest inland fish-market was originally established in the streets near Billingsgate Wharf at the north end of London Bridge. It was based at Lower Thames Street, in the City of London. The original building, built in 1849, was demolished in 1875 and replaced with an arcaded market hall. The market closed in 1982."