James McNeil Whistler (American, 1834 – 1903)
DimensionsPlate : 6 x 8 7/8 in. (15.24 x 22.54 cm)
Sheet : 9 1/4 x 13 3/4 in. (23.5 x 34.92 cm)
Credit LineGift of Orville C. Beattie
LabelJames McNeil Whistler was an accomplished draftsman, painter and printmaker who helped lead the mid 19th century etching revival movement. Whistler was born in the United States but trained in France and eventually settled in England, which became his permanent home in 1858. This print is one of eight etchings Whistler made in the late 1850s depicting life along the Thames River. Billingsgate was one of the historical water gates that guarded the approach to the city of London by water. According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: “Billingsgate is a market where the fisherwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes they are somewhat apt to leave delicacy and good manners a little on the left hand.” The print was considered revolutionary at the time it was made for portraying both near and distant aspects of the scene with equal precision. Whistler first published Billingsgate in 1858 and revised the plate many times during subsequent years. This impression is the ninth and final state of the print and probably belongs to an edition that was published in the book Etching and Etchers by Philip G. Hamerton in 1880.