Last week I attended an interesting talk (organised by the Friends of Glasgow University Library) on the University project to produce an on-line catalogue raisonné of the etchings of the American born artist James McNeill Whistler.
The world renowned Whistler collection at Glasgow came to the University from Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), Whistler’s sister-in-law, who inherited his estate. As well as there being many paintings (and etchings, of course) in the Hunterian Art Gallery, we have the archive of his correspondences, papers and photographs here in Special Collections.
Professor Margaret Macdonald, the project’s director, gave us a very useful tour around the Whistler etchings website. This documents not only the etchings still preserved in the Hunterian Art Gallery, but all those known to exist (or to have existed) that are now scattered around the world in both public and private collections. The project team located and investigated a staggering 9500 impressions of these prints during their research!
The catalogue is fully illustrated and may be searched in a number of ways – by name, place or subject, for example. It is possible to zoom in on the digitised images of the etchings and see Whistler’s work in great detail. Each record is accompanied by an incredible amount of background information, and it is possible to view and compare different states of the same print. I was quite fascinated to see how radically Whistler changed some of the etchings over time. Some of the original copperplates (many of them “cancelled” by having lines scored through them) have even been digitised, so the project really gives an insight into the whole artistic process.
The catalogue has only recently gone on line, and images will be added throughout 2012. It is well worth a visit, and feedback from viewers is being encouraged.