Object Record

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Collection Art-2D Collection
Catalog Number 1962.20.33
Object Name Print
Description "The Unsafe Tenement," 1858, etching by James McNeill Whistler.
Signed lower right: Whistler

Image features a large, very dilapidated house. In the center, a young girl in a white dress is talking to a young boy inside. The Unsafe Tenement was drawn during Whistler's etching tour of the Rhineland between 14 August and 7 October 1858. It was published in Douze eaux-fortes d'après Nature (the 'French Set') in November 1858.

Reference: Margaret F. MacDonald, Grischka Petri, Meg Hausberg, and Joanna Meacock, James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a catalogue raisonné, University of Glasgow, 2012, on-line website at http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk. Catalogue number G18.

Exhibition label from The Collector's Eye (2014):
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
The Unsafe Tenement, c. 1858
Max. B. and Lalla B. Arnstein Collection, 1962.20.33

This comes from Whistler's first published set of etchings-views of working class life in Paris and rural France. Whistler was influenced by the Realist movement's focus on domestic scenes and the poor, as well as the nostalgic yearning for the past and the "picturesque" as the industrial revolution rapidly changed life in Europe. A romanticized view of poverty, this view of two children inside a dilapidated farmhouse in the Alsace region was nevertheless popular with the public. Whistler reprinted several versions-this imprint replaces the original detail of a woman sweeping with a pitchfork, but looking carefully, you can still see the outline of the woman's dress and shoes.
Title The Unsafe Tenement
Date 1858
Role of Creator Artist
Creator Whistler, James McNeill
Medium ink
Material paper
Technique etching
Dimensions W-9 L-6 inches
Credit line Max B. and Lalla B. Arnstein Collection
Subjects architecture
Farm life