Thomas Way was an English lithographic printer. His son Thomas Robert Way was a printer, lithographer and painter.
The Ways played an extremely important role in the revival of the art of lithography in Britain. Lithography, then widely used for the cheap commercial reproduction of images, had been neglected as a form of artist expression. In 1878, influenced by Way, Whistler made his first experiments in lithography. Way explained the process to him and prepared his stones. From 1884 onwards Whistler produced a large number of lithographs which were printed by Way and later catalogued by Thomas R. Way.
In 1880 Way and his son helped Whistler with the printing of his Venice etchings at Air Street, Regent Street, these premises having been taken by the Fine Art Society as a workshop for Whistler.
The Ways also were involved in the printing of publicity for Whistler. In 1877 they printed a pamphlet to accompany Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178), in 1881 they printed the catalogue for the Fine Art Society's exhibition of Whistler's Venice pastels, and in 1892 they printed the catalogue for 'Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces', an exhibition held at the Goupil Gallery in London.
Thomas Way senior was one of several witnesses who left descriptions of Whistler's technique of painting from memory. When Whistler recited a scene he had memorised, Way corrected any mistakes he made.
Way was one of Whistler's chief creditors at his bankruptcy in 1879 and was chosen to sit on the committee of examiners along with F. R. Leyland and C. A. Howell. At the bankruptcy sale of Whistler's belongings, Way bought Joseph Edgar Boehm's 1872 terracotta bust of him, and also acquired by means of a picture dealer some thirty of Whistler's paintings. These included A White Note (YMSM 44), Sketch for 'Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay' (YMSM 74), Annabel Lee (YMSM 79), Study of a Female Figure (YMSM 81), Venus (YMSM 82), Symphony in Green and Violet (YMSM 83), Variations in Blue and Green (YMSM 84), Symphony in White and Red (YMSM 85), Symphony in Blue and Pink (YMSM 86), The White Symphony: Three Girls (YMSM 87), Venus Rising from the Sea (YMSM 93), Portrait Sketch of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 96), Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127), Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour (YMSM 131), Cremorne Gardens, No. 2 (YMSM 164), Arrangement in Yellow and Grey: Effie Deans (YMSM 183), Harmony in Blue and Gold (YMSM 197), The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209), Mount Ararat (YMSM 210) and also a portrait of one of Leyland's daughters, possibly Portrait of Miss Leyland (1) (YMSM 109), Portrait of Miss Leyland (2) (YMSM 110) or The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111). Way offered to return the portraits to Whistler. Whistler may have retrieved five of the Six Projects as they appeared in his studio in 1881. Way also owned a significant number of Whistler drawings, pastels and watercolours, many of which were bought at the time of the artist's bankruptcy.
Ten large canvases, ten small canvases and seven blank canvases were returned to Whistler as part of the Ways' final settlement with him on 10 August 1897, following Thomas R. Way's quarrel with Whistler in 1896 over the publication of Way's catalogue of Whistler's lithographs. Way senior did not return all of Whistler's pictures, passing Sketch for 'Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay' (YMSM 74), Study of a Female Figure (YMSM 81), Venus Rising from the Sea (YMSM 93), Maud Franklin (YMSM 132), Cremorne Gardens, No. 2 (YMSM 164) and Portrait Sketch of a Lady (YMSM 184) on to his son.
Whistler drew three lithographic portraits of Way in 1896, including Thomas Way (C.151). Way also made a couple of lithographic portraits of Whistler in 1890/5.
Way, Thomas R., 'Mr Whistler as Lithographer', Studio, vol. 30, December 1903, pp. 10-21; Way, T. R., and G. R. Dennis, The Art of James McNeill Whistler: An Appreciation, London, 1903; Way, T. R., Mr. Whistler's Lithographs: The Catalogue, London, 190?; Way, T. R., Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.