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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
American, 1834–1903

Rotherhithe

Etching and drypoint, 1860
Grace J. Hitchcock Collection, 1981.220

Whistler spent extended periods of time on the River Thames in England in an inn near the Wapping steamboat pier during the spring and summer of 1860. Of Whistler’s habits, his printer Thomas Way stated, “On the Thames Whistler worked tremendously…not caring to have people about or let anyone else see too much of his methods.” One of the prints on which he ‘worked tremendously’ was Rotherhithe. “It was made,” according to Way, “on the balcony of the Angel Inn at Rotherhithe, looking northwest toward the city [London], with the dome of St. Paul’s visible on the horizon at the far left.”
This print owes a great deal to the composition of Japanese woodblock prints. The large figures, the strong vertical that divides the space asymmetrically, and the very low horizon all speak to the spatial qualities of Japanese prints.