The Thames in Ice


Artist: James McNeill Whistler (American, 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
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)

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


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
  • Thomas Lawton Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 49, fig. 34.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 13, 117, pl. 20.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 62, pl. 14.
  • 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.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., First edition. New York, 1907. cat. 31, p. 160.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. pl. 24.
  • Susan Hobbs. A Connoisseur's Vision of America: The American Collection of Charles Lang Freer., August 1977. p. 94.
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Whistler: The Artist and the Man. Smithsonian Institution Radio Program, vol. 10, no. 3 New York. p. 13.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 9, p. 150.
  • 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.
  • James McNeill Whistler, with an introduction by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, with an introduction by Joseph Pennell. James McNeill Whistler. Distinguished American artists New York, 1924. pl. 9.
  • Denys Sutton. Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler. Philadelphia and New York, 1964. fig. 4.
  • Tom Prideaux. The World of Whistler, 1834-1903. New York, 1970. p. 32.
  • Judith Elaine Gorder. James McNeill Whistler: A Study of the Oil Paintings 1855-1869. Ann Arbor. fig. 17.
  • Elizabeth Robins Pennell Joseph Pennell. The Life of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols., London and Philadelphia. p. 96.
  • Leonce Benedite. Artistes Contemporains: Whistler. vol. 34, June 1905. p. 501.
  • Katharine Lochnan. Turner Whistler Monet. London. p. 109, fig. 44.
  • Alan Robinson. Imagining London, 1770-1900. p. 154, fig. 28.
  • Marco Goldin Palazzina della Promotrice delle belle arti. Gli impressionisti e la neve: la Francia e l'Europa. Exh. cat. Conegliano [Italy]. pg.157.
  • John House, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Jennifer Hardin. Monet's London: artists' reflections on the Thames 1859-1914. Exh. cat. St. Petersburg, Fla. fig. 7.
  • Margaret F. MacDonald Galina Andreeva. Whistler and Russia. Exh. cat. Moscow. p. 106.
  • Frances Fowle. Impressionism & Scotland. Exh. cat. Edinburgh. fig. 76.
  • Nancy R.E. Bell. James McNeill Whistler. London. p. 28.
  • Wolfgang Born. American Landscape Painting: An Interpretation. New Haven. fig. 102.
  • Albert von Dreyfus. James A. McNeill Whistler. Munich. p. 217.
  • Paintings by James McNeill Whistler. Gallery Book 8 Washington, May 2, 1923. .
  • James Warren Lane Aimee Crane. Whistler. New York. p. 87.
  • Haldane Macfall. Whistler: butterfly, wasp, wit, master of the arts, enigma. Edinburgh and London. p. 48.
  • Bunkyo Matsuki. James A. McNeill Whistler: In Memoriam. 5. .
  • 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.
  • Hilary Taylor. James McNeill Whistler. New York. pl.14.
  • Eugene Matthew Becker. Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement. Princeton. pl. 6.
  • Susan Hobbs. Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. vol. 120, no. 5 New York, November 1981. pl. 4.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. p. 363.
  • Anton Sailer. James McNeill Whistler in der Freer Gallery of Art zu Washington. .
  • Petra Bosetti. Ein dandy schwarmt fur Exotik. vol. 8. p. 109.
  • 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.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum