James Abbott McNeill Whistler
The Little Lagoon (K. 186)
etching and drypoint, 1879-80, on 18th century laid paper, with part of an indistinct watermark, signed with an elaborately shaded butterfly and inscribed imp in pencil, a fine proof impression of the second state (of three), printed with carefully wiped tone in the water in the foreground, probably printed prior to the plate's publication in The First Venice Set, 1881, with wide margins, pale light-staining and scattered foxing, otherwise in good condition
P. 223 x 152 mm., S. 269 x 206 mm.
With Wunderlich & Co., New York (with their gallery label).

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Lot Essay

In 1879, The Fine Arts Society commissioned Whistler to produce a series of twelve etchings of Venice. The request was well timed, coinciding with a crisis in the artist's fortunes following the famous libel suit with John Ruskin. His Venetian sojourn marked the beginning of an extremely fruitful period for the artist. In a letter to the director of The Fine Art Society Whistler enthused about his experience: 'I have learned to know a Venice in Venice that the others never seem to have perceived...'. He ended up extending his stay to fourteen months instead of the intended three and produced fifty etchings, a selection of which were published in the two series known as the First and Second Venice Sets (see lots 135-142). It was in Venice that Whistler began to explore the creative potential of surface tone as a means of suggesting nuances of light and atmosphere. It was also where he began his characteristic method of trimming the sheets to the platemark, leaving a small tab for his signature, a monogram of his initials in the shape of a butterfly, followed by the abbreviation imp, from the Latin impressit, which indicated that he had printed it himself. The following eight lots are all extremely fine examples from this series, and include several important subjects, most notably The Doorway (lot 139) and The Garden (lot 140), which are regarded as masterpieces of creative printing.

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