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

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The Little Forge, Lyme Regis

Titles

Minor title variations are as follows:

  • 'the little picture of the Forge' (1896, Ethel Whibley (1861-1920)). 1
  • 'The Little Forge: Lyme Regis' (1905, Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Paris). 2
  • 'The Little Forge – Lyme Regis' (1936, University of Glasgow). 3
  • 'The Little Forge, Lyme Regis' (1980, YMSM). 4

'The Little Forge, Lyme Regis' is the generally accepted title, to conform with other titles.

Description


                    The Little Forge, Lyme Regis, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46352
The Little Forge, Lyme Regis, The Hunterian, GLAHA 46352

The interior of a forge, painted in horizontal format. At left is the figure of an elderly bearded man, in shirtsleeves and baggy work trousers, wearing a hat, his left arm stretching towards the blazing fire. At far right is a cartwheel leaning against the wall. At the back of the workshop, at right, is a window, with a man facing the window, working at a bench. Details of tools and furniture and of the forge itself are obscured by tiny cracks all over the surface.

Site

Lyme Regis, a small fishing town in Dorset on the south coast of England.


                    The Master Smith of Lyme Regis, photograph, ca 1920
The Master Smith of Lyme Regis, photograph, ca 1920

                    The Master Smith of Lyme Regis, lithograph, C127, HAG 49116
The Master Smith of Lyme Regis, lithograph, C127, HAG 49116

The forge belonged to the Govier family. and was situated off Broad Street in Lyme Regis, in the county of Dorset, England. 5

Whistler painted at least two oils, and drew many lithographs in and around the forge, including The Blacksmith c127, reproduced above.

Sitter


                    The Master Smith, Lithograph, C120, Hunterian, GLAHA 49603
The Master Smith, Lithograph, C120, Hunterian, GLAHA 49603

The forge in Lyme Regis was owned by the Govier family. George Govier (1825-1903) , Master Smith, had married Isabella Palmer in 1851. He was a 57 year old widower at the time of the 1881 census, with three sons, Samuel E. (then aged 24), Tom P. (22), and George Anthony (14), and two daughters, Emma (29) and Eliza F. Govier (18).


                    The Old Smith's Story, Lithograph, C129, Hunterian, GLAHA 49124
The Old Smith's Story, Lithograph, C129, Hunterian, GLAHA 49124

                    Father and Son, Lithograph, C123, Hunterian, GLAHA 49407
Father and Son, Lithograph, C123, Hunterian, GLAHA 49407

Fourteen years later, in 1895, the elderly Master Smith, George Govier, appeared in several of Whistler's lithographs including The Master Smith c120 and Father and Son c123. His son Samuel Edward Govier (1857-1934) , had married Martha Ann Turner in 1884; he also appears in several lithographs and the painting, The Master Smith of Lyme Regis [YMSM 450].

Comments

Working forges, with their strong contrasts of light and shade, and their all-year warmth, were a recurrent subject for Whistler. Some twenty prints of forges and furnaces span Whistler's career, testifying to his continuing interest in such subjects. The strong contrasts of light and shade, the workers, craftsmen, and the tools of their trade, fascinated him. The convenience of working in a warm interior may also have affected his choice of subject, particularly in Lyme Regis in October! His first forge was etched at Perros-Guirec in 1861 (The Forge [86]) and the last, the Flaming Forge in Ajaccio in 1901. 6

Notes:

1: E. B. Philip to D. C. Thomson, 7 May 1896, GUW #08400.

2: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 82.)

3: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 11).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 442).

5: Hopkins, Robert Thurston, Thomas Hardy's Dorset, New York, 1922, pp. 218-221, photograph of smithy repr. Gutenberg website at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/43565.

6: Margaret F. MacDonald, Grischka Petri, Meg Hausberg, and Joanna Meacock, James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné,, University of Glasgow, 2012, online at http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk. (G.86, 490).

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret