A three-story house fills nearly the entire sheet. On the ground level, a stone arched entrance on the left is flanked by a window with green shutters; on the second level, rusticated stone the defines the vertical sides of the buildings is indicated, along with three small windows; the third level projects forward, corbels below and shadows indicating the overhanging top floor; a shingled roof with a dormer window completes the building. Summary indications of the flanking buildings are suggested. Two young women or girls stand at the lower left corner of the composition.
Whistler executed only a handful of color lithographs, all drawn during his time living in Paris and printed by Henri Belfond. Whistler worked very closely with Belfond to vary the colors, matching the hues to the tonalities of the different papers used to print this work.
Three arched openings (windows flanking a central door) are obscured by the trunks and foliage of two slender trees positioned in front of the building. Neither the tree trunks nor the building facade are drawn completely down to the ground.
Whistler focused on lithography over etching during the 1890s, making his etched views of Paris, that were never printed in editions, quite rare.
Here, Whistler draws a partial representation of a cafe at the Palais Royal. The details of the building and the sense of recession into space are essentiall cancelled by the slender trees that obscure the view. As if directly evoking the "Floating World" of Japanese prints, the elements are not drawn to the ground level, leaving them detached and unanchored within the composition. A further reference to Asian art is the way the trunks divide the scene, much like a folding screen.
A young woman at the left stands at the threshold of a stone doorway; in the interior beyond her, a woman in a white cap is preparing a jar at a desk or counter. Above the desk is a row of jars on a shelf.
"La Marchande de Moutarde" is an early example of Whistler's interest in showing views through the frames of doorways. Here the sense of depth from the threshold to the woman inside the room is minimized (especially compared with "The Kitchen") in favor of intense patterning of all the surfaces--an approach that tends to flatten space. The composition is based on two drawings executed in Cologne, Germany during the walking tour Whistler took w/ Delannoy.
A partial view of a butcher's shop is seen frontally from across the road. To the left is an arched doorway within a pedimented entryway; a woman holding a baby stands silhouetted against the doorway while a little girl sits on the stoop. To the right is an arched shopfront that comprises both the doorway and the window in which hangs two large cuts of meat. The window of the shop is partially screened by an awning the extends before the facade of the building. A dog is seen sitting in front of the shop window.
During the 1880s Whistler focused on depicting shop fronts in Chelsea and elsewhere in London; this view of a shop on Cleveland Street (as identified by Thomas Way) is a continuation of this interest.
A building with an arched doorway, windows at the center right, and the beginning of a flight of stairs on the right acts as architectural foils for the figures and a cart and horse (hansom cab?) arrayed in front of the building or grouped in the dark entryway.
The Way's printing offices on Wellington Street faced the back of the Gaiety Theatre and Whistler several times drew the stage door of the theatre from the Way's establishment. In this way, technical innovations introduced by the Ways--such as the use of transfer paper--could be experimented with immediately by Whistler.
"Gaiety Stage Door" was published in the portfolio "Notes" in 1887.
Three women sit just inside the doorway of a building shown frontally to the viewer. The doorway is framed by windows on either side within an archietctural framework that connects the windows and door with a dado under the windows. The women have a large piece of fabric laid over their laps on which they are working. The woman at the left is angled so that she is looking into the room; the other two look out at the viewer. The profile of a fourth woman is visible in the central window on the left side of the door.
Whistler's continuing interest in the arrangements of doorways and windows as a compositional focus dates back to his early work in the French Set. Here, the composition recalls some of his Venice etchings, such as "The Bead-Stringers", but is handled with the light, hair-like fine lines of the Amsterdam etchings. The result is an of evansecent, almost shimmering effect of light.
An old woman in a white cap sits in a cluttered interior. Positioned just inside the doorway, the woman is surrounded by piles of cloth with domestic objects on shelves and walls that gleam in the darkness.
The images of Whistler's French Set reflect the artistic trends current in Paris when Whistler was a student there. "La Vieille aux Loques", with its concern for working class figures, demonstrates Whistler's early orientation towards the work of Courbet. Throughout his career, Whistler mantained an interest in depicting working class and humble subjects; however, the beauty of his depictions elevated such works beyond the gritty realism of early works such as this etching.