James Whistler (1834-1903) was born in Lowell, Massachusetts; in his youth he studied art in St. Petersburg, London, and Paris, settling in France after a short career as a draftsman for the U.S. Coast Survey. Although he is known primarily for his paintings, Whistler also produced numerous etchings, lithographs, and drypoints.
In 1879, Whistler was commissioned to do a series of etchings in Venice, and following his relocation to London at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870), he also produced etchings and lithographs depicting English landscapes and architecture.
"The Fishing Boat" belongs to Whistler’s Venetian series of 1879-1880; it was published in 1886 with a series of twenty-six etchings known as the “Second Venice Set.” It depicts a sailing vessel on a Venetian canal, and the artist’s characteristic signature – a monogram of his initials within an abstract butterfly – appears at the lower right. This print hung in the Blue Room of the Deanery along with other etchings by Whistler and several works of the French master, Charles Meryon.
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- Prints made from an etched printing plate, which is a metal plate on which a design is made by coating the plate with an acid-resistant substance, creating a design in the coating, and then exposing the plate to acid, which etches the plate where the metal is exposed. For designs incised directly into a copper plate using a burin or graver, use "engravings (prints)."