Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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The Thames in Ice

The Thames in Ice dates from about 25 December 1860. 1

The Thames in Ice, Freer Gallery of Art
The Thames in Ice, Freer Gallery of Art

1860: According to the Pennells, Whistler painted The Thames in Ice in three days at Christmas 1860, from an inn at Cherry Gardens. 2 The River Thames, according to a report on 19 January 1861, had been frozen for fourteen weeks. 3

1861: It may have been the 'picture of the Thames' described by his mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), as 'unfinished', which was submitted unsuccessfully to the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1861. 4

1862: However by May 1862 it was certainly completed, and Whistler's mother commented:

'But now Jemmie Dear of your paintings! how pleased I am to hear that you finished the two in time to present at the Royal Academy. Your mother is satisfied even if they are not hung this year. You must see in the retrospect it was all for the best. Your picture of the Thames was not accepted last Spring, not that they are unfinished as was that, but however trying is the disciplining it must be rightly ordered by our Heavenly Father to whose over-ruling I commend you day by day. During your torturing suspense of last month my Dear boy I am sure you thought of your mother's sympathy while we were in our lodgings together.' 5

It was accepted by the Royal Academy and exhibited under the title 'The Twenty-fifth of December, 1860, on the Thames' (cat. no. 114).


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 36).

2: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 89.

3: Illustrated London News, 19 January 1861, p. 1063, cited in Curry 1984 [more], pp. 117, 306 note 20.2, pl. 20.

4: A. M. Whistler to J. Whistler, 12 May 1862, GUW #06519.

5: Ibid.

Last updated: 6th February 2021 by Margaret