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The “Adam and Eve,” Old Chelsea

The “Adam and Eve,” Old Chelsea, 1878, James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903), Etching, Gift from the Max B. and Lalla B. Arnstein Collection, 1962.20.34.

James McNeill Whistler was one of the most celebrated artists of the 19th century, and single-handedly ignited an etching revival in Europe and the United States with his detailed and expressive prints. Whistler settled down in London in the late 1850s, and spent much of his time exploring, sketching, and etching the area of warehouses and wharves along the Thames east of London.

Here beached boats lay upon the Chelsea riverbank of the Thames River at low tide. The “Adam and Eve,” the nearest gabled building pictured, was a “wine and spirit” establishment by the river that was eventually demolished to make way for the Chelsea Embankment. His expressive prints helped document the changing environs of an already-vanishing London.