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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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19th March 2003 - A Private View

On 19 March 1892, in the Goupil Gallery on New Bond Street, London, there took place the Private View of a show that was to be a turning point in Whistler's career, certainly in terms of his popularity with a British audience. Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces was a show which comprised 43 of Whistler's most important works of the time, and in an extended discourse recorded in The Life of James McNeill Whistler by J. and E.R. Pennell (II, 1908, pp. 117-23), the then Director of the Goupil Gallery, David Croal Thomson, spoke about the Private View:

"Mr. Whistler was not present at the Private View. He knew that many people would expect to see him and talk enthusiastic nonsense, and he rightly decided he was better to be away, and I was left alone to receive the visitors. Some hundreds of cards of invitation were issued, and it really seemed as if every recipient had accepted the call. Literally, crowds thronged the galleries all day, and it is quite impossible to describe the excitement produced... [At] about five o'clock in the evening Mr. and Mrs. Whistler came in, though they would not enter the exhibition - they remained in a curtained-off portion of the Gallery near the entrance. One or two of their most intimate friends were informed by me of the presence of the painter, and a small reception was held...

"The success of the exhibition was so great that it was impossible to do anything but, as it were, shepherd the visitors in and out as rapidly as the attendants could... I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that this collection marked a revolution in the public feeling towards Whistler... whereas up to that time the pictures of Mr. Whistler commanded only a small sum of money, after the exhibition a great number of connoisseurs desired to acquire his works, and therefore their money value immediately increased."