boat, canal, church, field, town, landscape, windmill.
One title predominates, as follows:
' (1890/1891, Whistler). 1
' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler
' (1899, Frederick Wedmore
(1844-1921)). 3 Zaandam
is clearly the dominant title.
1: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.
2: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.
3: Wedmore 1899 [more] (cat. no. 268).
In the foreground is a canal, with one flat-bottomed boat moored beside a pole in the centre and another at right, by the far bank. Beyond is a wide stretch of flat meadows. In the distance is a long line of windmills, and on the horizon, the church tower and buildings of a town, under a cloudy sky.
Zaandam is a town in the Netherlands, which was within easy reach of Amsterdam by train or steamer in the 1890s, when Baedeker described it:
'a town with 15,000 inhab[itants], many of whom are said to be millionaires, situated at the influx of the Zaan into the Y, is a thriving place, thoroughly Dutch in appearance. The small houses, which are almost all of one or two stories only, are built of wood or brick painted green or red, and surrounded by gardens. Along the bank of the Zaan as far as the villages of Zaandyk, Koog, Wormerveer and Krommenie, extend about four hundred windmills. They are used for many different purposes, and comprise oil, saw, corn, paint, cement, and papermills, The Zaanland is literally a forest of wind-mills.' 4
In the middle of Whistler's view is the Roman Catholic Church on the Kalf, known as the 'Calf Church', which was newly completed in 1889. From left to right, the windmills are the Boere Jonker, the Jonger Abraham, the St Willebrord, the Zeeman and the Windei. Whistler seems to have omitted one windmill, De Hondeman. 5
5: Heijbroek 1997 [more], pp. 71, 75, 134 n. 51.
The etching can be considered a tribute to the View of Amsterdam from the northwest
(ca 1640, B.110) by Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn
(1617-1681). The Pennells wrote effusively that in this etching:
'[Whistler] surpassed Rembrandt
in Rembrandt's own subjects. ... It is curious to contrast the distant views of the
town of Amsterdam and the windmills of Zaandam with
Rembrandt's etchings of similar subjects, and to note the
greater feeling of space and distance that Whistler gives by
his simplification of the foreground and his sacrifice of certain facts, so that he might render on his copper the appearance,
the aspect, which the actual scene presented to his eyes.'' 6
(1822-1886) had etched A Zaandam
in 1877 for L'eau - forte en
, published by Alfred Cadart
(1828-1875). 7 Joseph Pennell
(1860-1926) - who greatly admired Whistler's etching of Zaandam
- followed Whistler in drawing a lithograph of the mills in Zaandam in 1897.
7: Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam, INV.RP-P-1971-22.
8: Pennell 1931 [more], pp. 94-95. Heijbroek 1997 [more], repr. p. 118.