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

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The Canal, Amsterdam


Whistler's original title is not known. Later titles vary only in punctuation:

  • 'The Canal. Amsterdam' (1905, Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Paris). 1
  • 'The Canal – Amsterdam' (1936, University of Glasgow). 2
  • 'The Canal, Amsterdam' (1980, YMSM). 3

The title was regularised to conform with other titles in 1980, so that, 'The Canal, Amsterdam', is the generally accepted title.


                    The Canal, Amsterdam, The Hunterian
The Canal, Amsterdam, The Hunterian

A city-scape in horizontal format, showing the view across a narrow canal, with houses parallel to the frame. The lower two storeys of several houses are shown, with washing hanging out to dry. Several figures are visible on the balcony over the water to left of centre, and framed in the opening onto the canal. The building is reflected in the water.


This is a view of the Oudeszijdskolk, in Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, with the back of the buildings on Sint Olofsteeg, in the city's red-light district. 4

                    The Square House, Amsterdam, etching and drypoint, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46641
The Square House, Amsterdam, etching and drypoint, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46641

As well as completing more than a dozen etchings, Whistler worked on several watercolour sketches and at least two small oil panels during their visit. Two of the etchings, The Square House, Amsterdam [454] and The Dance House: Nocturne [455] show the same scene. 5


An oil by Arthur Haythorne Studd (1863-1919), Steps in Venice, may have been painted with knowledge of this work. 6


1: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 85).

2: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 10).

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 384).

4: Heijbroek 1997 [more] , pp. 66-71.

5: Margaret F. MacDonald, Grischka Petri, Meg Hausberg, and Joanna Meacock, James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné, University of Glasgow, 2012, website at (G454 and 455).

6: Greenwood, A. G., Arthur Studd 1863-1919. His life and work, Cambridge: Cambridge University Fine Arts Tripos, 1968, p. vii, plate 60.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret