Whistler's watermarks

The De Erven de Blauw countermark


The Forge 1861 intaglio print Collection of the National Gallery of AustraliaThe Forge 1861 intaglio print Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail


The countermark in the paper under the drypoint The Forge 1861 belonged to the firm De Erven de Blauw and was used c.1822. Another impression of this intaglio print, illustrated in the Whistler Online Catalogue from the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow,1 bears part of an elaborate ‘beehive’ watermark belonging to the same papermill, including the initials DEDB.

The ‘beehive’ watermark appears in full in the paper under an impression of Eagle wharf 1859 in the National Gallery of Australia collection. This ‘beehive’ watermark and the countermark illustrated here may belong to paper made on the same mould. The countermark, which also appears horizontally in the lower left of The lime burner, is often accompanied by a watermark of a Fleur-de-Lis within a crowned shield.

The name De Erven de Blauw derives from an imortant family of Dutch papermakers who began making paper in 1621. The papermakers founded by Dirk and Cornelis Blauw operated five wind-powered papermills in the Zaanstreek province of North Holland, and survived for over 250 years under many names.

Whistler had a particular preference for Dutch 'antique laid' papers; he was aware that the rich quality they gave to ink could not be imitated with contemporary papers.2

Frederick Goulding (1842–1909) – who completed a posthumous edition of Whistler’s lithographs at the request of Birnie Philips (Whistler’s sister-in-law and executor of his estate) – often chose to print on D&C Blauw paper. Variations of the D&C Blauw watermark and countermark appear in the paper of eight works by Whistler in the National Gallery of Australia collection.

Kassandra Coghlan and Bill Hamilton

1 Whistler Online Catalogue, Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, accessed 19 April 2005, huntsearch.gla.ac.uk/whistler_blue/index.html.
2 Menpes, Mortimer, Whistler as I knew him London: Adam and Charles Black 1904 pp.92–93.



Detail of foolscap watermark with seven pointed collar from Portrait Study: Miss Rosalind Birnie Philip,lithograph 1896