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James Whistler (1830-1903), The Little Lagoon, 1879–80 Etching and drypoint, signed in pencil with a butterfly and inscribed imp., printed in warm black ink on laid paper, trimmed at the platemark, leaving a signature tab: an impression in the fourth (final) state, published in an edition of 100 by The Fine Art Society, in 1880 in the First Venice Set 9 x 6 inches (22.7 x 15 cm) Reference: Kennedy 186; Glasgow 216
The Little Lagoon was the smallest work in the First Venice Set, and the artist’s minimal use of line illustrates the difficulty many contemporary critics had with Whistler’s work. The Daily News reviewed the exhibition at The Fine Art Society and commented ‘In the “Little Venice” and “The Little Lagoon” Mr Whistler has attempted to convey impressions by lines far too few for his purpose.’ However these two works seem to describe the vastness of the open water using plate tone, wiping and the forms which caught his eye.
The work was first exhibited at The Fine Art Society in December 1880 and published in the First Venice Set. Whistler delivered a total of 66 impressions of the etching to The Fine Art Society, the last four in April 1889, followed by another from the cancelled plate (now in the Cincinnati Art Museum, a gift from Frank Duveneck).