Graphic Cabinet 2: James McNeill Whistler "The Thames Set"

  • Exhib_slideshow_whistler

    James A. McNeill Whistler, Rotherhithe, 1860, Etching, drypoint, 10 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.  (27.62 x 20 cm), Gift of Anna Rice Cooke, 1927 (5798)

March 25, 2008 - July 08, 2008
Gallery 9

Exhibition Overview

As a tribute to Anna Rice Cooke at the end of the Academy’s 80th anniversary year, the Department of European and American Art will mount an exhibition of The Thames Set — a series of etchings by James McNeill Whistler.

While the American artist’s name resonates for his iconic oil-on-canvas Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother, he actually has never received universal acclaim as a painter. His etchings, on the other hand, are widely held to be among the very best of the 19th century.

The Thames Set was only the second time Whistler’s etchings were marketed as a set. Like his debut set, The French Set, scenes of rural France, The Thames Set was a critical and commercial success. Whistler, who with French artist Charles Meryon was a mid-19th-century pioneer in depicting urban landscapes, captured the urban, crowded and sometimes grimy London waterfront in Thames.

The complete set of 16 prints, most of them created between 1859 and 1861, was among Mrs. Cooke’s initial gifts to the Academy. While several of the prints were displayed in the museum in 1967 and one print, Rotherhithe, was on view in last year’s “A Vision of the World: The Anna Rice Cooke Collection at the Honolulu Academy of Arts” exhibition, the entire set has never before been shown at the Academy.

— Stephen McLaren