Billingsgate

Wharf scene with fishing boats and figures

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Billingsgate, 1859
Etching and drypoint, black ink on cream Japanese paper
6 × 8 7/8 in. (15.2 × 22.4 cm)
Published in numerous editions, including “The Portfolio,” 1878
Eighth state of nine
Signed at lower right in plate: “Whistler. 1859.”
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection

 

Five workers stand or sit along the stern of a barge at the lower left foreground of the bustling scene. At far left, figures ascend a staircase to Billingsgate fish market, while throngs of people enjoying the wharf's view press against a railing. Across the middle ground stretches a succession of ten moored fishing boats, their bold vertical masts a striking juxtaposition to the rhythmic horizontal arches of London Bridge behind them. Billingsgate was highly acclaimed and widely published.