James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Etching: DROUET

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Etching: DROUET

Description: An original James Abbott McNeill Whistler Etching.
Original etching printed in black ink on laid paper.
Signed and dated in the plate lower right Whistler 1859.
A strong and dark lifetime impression of Kennedy’s second and final state, Glasgow’s second state (cancelled b); Pelletier’s third state of four, of this rare etching (according to the University of Glasgow’s Whistler Etchings Project there are only 73 known impressions, most of them from the second state after restoration). Printed after the removal of the cancellation lines from the figure’s forehead, eyes and cheek, but prior to those areas being retouched and restored.  Inscribed in the plate below the figure “Drouet Sculpteur,” and in the upper right corner “Whistler Maitre Eaufortier” (extremely faint). Published in the album Cancelled Plates by the Fine Art Society, London, 1879.
Catalog: Kennedy 55 ii/ii; Glasgow 35 ii/ii (cancelled b); Pelletier iii/iv; Mansfield 55; Grolier Club 55; Wedmore 53.
9 x 6 inches

Charles Drouet (1836-1908) was both sculptor and collector, and among his bequests to the Louvre was the dramatic and realistic “Head of an Old Man Smoking” painted by Whistler about the time of this etched portrait. According to Drouet, his portrait was done in two sittings, of two and a half and one and a half hours.

The dynamism of Whistler’s free-flowing drypoint strokes provides bulk to the briefly suggested figure of the sculptor. These bold strokes present a marked contrast to the tightly wrought dash upon dash technique that the artist used to develop his subject’s intense gaze, strong nose, fluffy beard, and jagged architectonic mane of hair. Strength and vitality are among the attributes with which Whistler invested his friend, one of several artistic and literary figures he portrayed on copper in 1899.

This three-quarter length, three-quarter view portrait is reminiscent of paintings by Velazquez, whom Whistler greatly admired. In addition its focus on the head recalls the first states of Van Dyck’s etched portraits for his “Iconographia,” and in particular, as Whistler scholar Katherine Lochnan points out, that of Lucas Vosterman, which Whistler could have seen at the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857 or in his brother-in-law Seymour Haden’s collection.

Even writers critical of Whistler’s 1874 exhibition at the Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall - his first solo show - gave high praise to his etchings and drypoints, praising them for their “truth and beauty . . . their marvelous technical skill.” One critic singled out “some fine portrait heads, notably that of M. Drouet, the French sculptor.”

Dimensions: Image Size: 9 x 6 inches
Artist or Maker: James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Medium: Etching
Date: 1859
Condition Report: In excellent condition, with thread margins outside the platemark on all four sides.
Literature: Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, London and Philadelphia, 1908, pp. 70, 72, 92; Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, pp. 90, 93; Katharine A.. Lochnan, The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1984, pp. 104-105, pl. 125 (ill.); Drawing Near. Whistler Etchings from the Zelman Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984, cat. no. 13; Richard Dorment & Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1994, no. 8, p. 69 (ill.).
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