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James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), The Bridge, Amsterdam, etching, 1889. Signed on the tab with the butterfly and inscribed “imp”, also inscribed on the verso in the artist’s hand “first proof pulled” together with the butterfly monogram. In good condition, printer’s crease bottom center. References: , first state of three.
Trimmed on or outside of the plate mark by the artist, with the tab remaining, h: 6.5 x w: 9.5 in / h: 16.5 x w: 24.1 cm
Provenance: P. and D. Colnaghi, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York (stock no. a 33940)
A fine atmospheric impression of this exceedingly rare work (only 9 lifetime impressions have been located, all but this impression in institutional collections) printed in buff ‘antique’ (pre 1800) laid paper, with a light veil of plate tone, slightly stronger in the watery foreground and lighter beyond the bridge and in the sky.
This impression has very little etched work in the water in the central part of the print, consistent with Whistler’s note on the verso that this is the first impression pulled, and with Glasgow and Kennedy’s description of the first state of this print. Instead of the line work, Whistler has left waves of carefully wiped plate tone to represent the movement and shading of the water.
In this early state the bridge railing in the center and shadow work in the buildings at the left are yet to be completed. In the later states Whistler also added heavy lines in the water and sky suggesting a storm; in this state the lines are drawn with an exquisite light touch suggesting a calm before the storm.