Whistler’s striking Longshoremen is one of the finest examples of his “you are there” etching technique. The plate was executed in 1859, a year in which the artist produced more than 30 etchings, including the famous Black Lion Wharf. The etching shows the clientele of an “ordinary” in the Rotherhithe or Wapping areas of Thames-side London.
What can be added to what has already been said or written about Whistler? He was a comet who streaked through the Victorian heavens influencing the art and style of the mid- to late 19th century. He was an integral part of the renascence of etching as a fine-art medium. His paintings were seen as revolutionary, both in oil and in watercolor. His impact on home and art-gallery interior design is still being felt to this day, in no small part because of his early embracing of Japonisme. His Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1 (aka Portrait of the Artist’s Mother) is one of the greatest paintings of the 19th century.
The etching is the second state (University of Glasgow catalog raisonné) and is printed on a fine cream-colored laid paper marked “Original Turkey Mill / 1868.” The Glasgow catalog reports 37 known impressions. The plate was canceled after a fourth state was pulled.