Portrait of Whistler

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 5
Date: 1857
Medium: etching
Size: 118 x 80 mm
Signed: 'J. W.' at lower right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 3
Catalogues: K.7; M.9; T.-; W.1
Impressions taken from this plate  (3)
Portrait of Whistler probably dates from 1857.

Whistler's youthful appearance (curly hair and small moustache) and the slightly fussy technique suggest an early date. There is definite evidence of Whistler's activities in etching from 1854 (in the USA) and from 1857 in Europe. However, it is most likely that this dates from Whistler's student years in Paris.
Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921) wrote: 'From this early portrait it would appear that Whistler was Whistler's first model', and suggested that 'The plate was etched probably in 1857.' 1

It could be associated by date and, to a certain extent, by technique, with Au Sixième [3], which is the only etching definitely known to date from 1857.

1: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 1).

One impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K0070101) was catalogued, possibly by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), as being 'earlier than 1858', and the Caxton Club catalogue stated categorically 'Done in 1857'. 2

Beatrice Whistler listed it as 'Whistler - Early ... 1858', possibly reflecting Whistler's or her own idea of an appropriate date. However, her list was made in the early 1890s, and the print may not have been available for them to check. Furthermore, even if she did consult Whistler, his memory was not necessarily precise. 3

2: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 1, 2); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 1).

3: List, [1891/1892], GUW #12715.