May 21, 2020 - Sale 2537

Sale 2537 - Lot 309

Price Realized: $ 6,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 10,000 - $ 15,000

Lithograph on cream wove appliqué on off-white plate paper, 1878. 173x264 mm; 6 3/4x10 3/4 inches. Second state (of 2), with the tone in the sky, especially around the masts of the ship at the left, printing darkly and clearly and with the fine horizontal lines in the sky. Edition of approximately only 35. Signed with the large, shaded butterfly in pencil, lower left. A superb, richly-inked impression of this very scarce, early lithograph.

Limehouse is Whistler's (1834-1903) first topographical lithograph, following in short succession two figural lithographs he had made in 1878. Whistler had already depicted a view of Limehouse, on the Thames in east London, in an etching from 1859 (Kennedy 40; Glasgow 48). According to Spink, et al., for the lithograph, Whistler's lithographic printer, Thomas Way (1861-1913), arranged an excursion to Limehouse and brought along several partially prepared lithograph stones (with some background tone) for Whistler to draw upon directly on the spot. Whistler drew the river, buildings, boats and sky from nature. "Way recounted that the figures on the far right tarring a ship's hull were drawn back in the printing offices, where Whistler observed the forms of passers by and integrated them into the composition."

Way printed only a few proof impressions of the first state as well as only several impressions of the second state in the late 1870s. This was one of four Whistler lithographs to be included in a series called Notes slated for publication in the late 1880s, but only another 30 impressions of Limehouse could be pulled due to the deterioration of the stone. The presence of Whistler's late-1870s-style signature suggests that when Way assembled the Notes portfolio in 1887, they may have used impressions of these lithographs remaining in their possession from the 1878-79 printing of Art Notes, a failed publication for which this lithograph was originally intended. Way 4; Levy 9; Spink 7.