Charles Hanson: A Scarce Print of Whistler’s Son

Swann’s September 20 auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings features several scarce works by James A.M. Whistler, including The Boy (Charlie Hanson), a drypoint from 1875-76 that has a compelling backstory. 

James A.M. Whistler, The Boy (Charlie Hanson), drypoint, 1875-76.
Estimate $20,000 to $30,000. At auction September 20.

The subject of the print is Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), who was actually Whistler’s illegitimate son with parlor maid Louisa Fanny Hanson. The boy was cared for by Joanna Hiffernan, another of Whistler’s mistresses, despite the fact that Whistler had been unfaithful to her. Hiffernan continued to look after Hanson as late as 1880, even while Whistler was away in Venice with Maud Franklin, then his current mistress. 

Whistler’s relationship with Charles Hanson was never close; the artist didn’t even attend his son’s wedding in 1896–apparently nor did he approve of the union–due to the death of his wife Beatrix.

This brilliant, early impression was once in the collection of Howard Mansfield, who was known for assembling one of the top three Whistler collections in the world before it was sold in 1919 for between $300,000 and $350,000 (roughly $4.5 million today).

We have not found another impression at auction in the past 25 years.