The Thames in Ice

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W: 74.6 x 55.3 cm (29 3/8 x 21 3/4 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

boat, river, snow, United States, winter

Seymour Haden (1818-1910), London [1]

To 1901
John James Cowan (1846-1936), Edinburgh, Scotland, to 1901 [2]

From 1901 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from John James Cowan in November 1901 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 2, C.L. Freer, in the object record.

[2] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 37, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Francis Seymour Haden 1818-1910
John James Cowan (C.L. Freer source) 1846-1936
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


After Whistler moved from Paris to London in 1859, he found the river Thames to be a constant source of inspiration. Originally titled “The Twenty-fifth of December 1860. On the Thames,” this picture records a particular moment during a bitterly cold winter, when the river was frozen for more than fourteen weeks. Although he likely retouched the work later in the decade, Whistler claimed to have completed it in three days at an inn overlooking the river. The bold brushstrokes, somber palette, and thinly painted surface reinforce the realistic immediacy of the image. This work seems worlds away from the visual poetry of Whistler’s later Nocturnes, but there is a hint of his subsequent aestheticism in the misty gray atmosphere that envelops the factories on the far bank of the river.

Published References
  • Anton Sailer. James McNeill Whistler in der Freer Gallery of Art zu Washington. .
  • Susan Hobbs. Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. vol. 120, no. 5 New York, November 1981. pl. 4.
  • Eugene Matthew Becker. Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement. Princeton. pl. 6.
  • Hilary Taylor. James McNeill Whistler. New York. pl.14.
  • Léonce Bénédite. L'œuvre de James MacNeill Whistler: quarante reproductions de chefs-d'œuvre du maître, réunis à l'occasion de l'exposition commémorative organisée à Paris, au palais de l'École nationale des beaux-arts. Exh. cat. Paris. pl. 31.
  • Bunkio Matsuki. James A. McNeill Whistler: In Memoriam. vol. 5. .
  • Paintings by James McNeill Whistler. Gallery Book, vol. 8 Washington, May 2, 1923. .
  • Wolfgang Born. American Landscape Painting: An Interpretation. New Haven. fig. 102.
  • Frances Fowle. Impressionism & Scotland. Exh. cat. Edinburgh. fig. 76.
  • John House, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Jennifer Hardin. Monet's London: artists' reflections on the Thames 1859-1914. Exh. cat. St. Petersburg, Florida. fig. 7.
  • Marco Goldin, Palazzina della Promotrice delle belle arti. Gli impressionisti e la neve: la Francia e l'Europa. Exh. cat. Conegliano, Italy. pg.157.
  • Judith Elaine Gorder. James McNeill Whistler: A Study of the Oil Paintings 1855-1869. Ann Arbor. fig. 17.
  • Denys Sutton. Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler. Philadelphia and New York, 1964. fig. 4.
  • , (Introduction) Elizabeth Robins Pennell, (Introduction) Joseph Pennell. James McNeill Whistler. Distinguished American artists New York, 1924. pl. 9.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. vol. 2: pl. 24.
  • Burns A. Stubbs. Paintings, Pastels, Drawings, Prints, and Copper Plates by and Attributed to American and European Artists, Together with a List of Original Whistleriana, in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 1, no. 2, 2nd ed. Washington, 1967. pl. 19.
  • Jean Jepson Page. James McNeill Whistler, Baltimorean, and The White Girl: A Speculative Essay. vol. 84, no. 1 Balitmore, Spring 1989. pp. 10-38, fig. 3.
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Whistler: The Artist and the Man. Smithsonian Institution Radio Program, vol. 10, no. 3 New York. p. 13.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 13, 117, pl. 20.
  • Nancy R.E. Bell. James McNeill Whistler. London. p. 28.
  • Tom Prideaux. The World of Whistler, 1834-1903. New York, 1970. p. 32.
  • Haldane Macfall. Whistler: butterfly, wasp, wit, master of the arts, enigma. Edinburgh and London. p. 48.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 49, fig. 34.
  • Thomas Robert Way, G. R. Dennis. The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation by T.R. Way and G.R. Dennis. London, 1903. p. 56.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 62, pl. 14.
  • James Warren Lane, Aimee Crane. Whistler. New York. p. 87.
  • Susan Hobbs. A Connoisseur's Vision of America: The American Collection of Charles Lang Freer., August 1977. p. 94.
  • Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Joseph Pennell. The Life of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols., London and Philadelphia. p. 96.
  • Margaret F. MacDonald, Galina Andreeva. Whistler and Russia. Exh. cat. Moscow. p. 106.
  • Petra Bosetti. Ein dandy schwarmt fur Exotik. vol. 8. p. 109.
  • Katharine Lochnan. Turner Whistler Monet. London. p. 109, fig. 44.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 9, p. 150.
  • Alan Robinson. Imagining London, 1770-1900. p. 154, fig. 28.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 31, p. 160.
  • Albert von Dreyfus. James A. McNeill Whistler. Munich. p. 217.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. p. 363.
  • Léonce Bénédite. Artistes Contemporains: Whistler. vol. 34, June 1905. p. 501.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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