Vitré: The Canal

Canal scene with buildings reflected in the water

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Vitré: The Canal, 1893
Transfer lithograph, black ink on ivory laid paper
12 × 7 1/2 in. (30.5 × 19 cm)
Only state
Printed, center right on side of house: Whistler’s butterfly monogram
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection


Whistler drew this view of Vitré’s picturesque architecture during a summer spent in Brittany. The foreground is dominated by the canal, heavily shaded in contrast to the sunlit medieval structures that border it. A single figure in Breton dress occupies the scene at left. In the background, a pattern of light and dark represents the rooftops of houses ascending the hill. Responding to his printer about the first proofs he received, Whistler exclaimed, "They are most delicate and beautifully printed . . . There is a delightful velvety quality about them." Whistler achieved this soft effect with a stump—a tool for blending and shading.

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