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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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3rd October 2003 - Death of Sidney Starr

The painter Sidney Starr died on this day in 1925. A painter of genre, portrait and landscape subjects, Starr spent the first half of his artistic career in Britain and Europe, before moving to New York, where he died.

Starr became a member of the Society of British Artists in the year of Whistler's presidency in 1886, and resigned with him in 1888. Starr's paintings of the 1880s were markedly Whistlerian, and Starr and Whistler were in correspondence during the early 1890s.

One letter sheds some light on Starr's role in the sale of the controversial painting of the Ruskin trial of 1878, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket. On 2 September 1892, Starr writes from New York to Whistler (who was in Paris) as follows:

"Mr Untermyer wishes me to ask you to send the painting, "The Falling Rocket" directly to his house...

"When your cable came Mr Untermyer was a little startled at the price, and asked me my opinion as to the commercial value etc, saying he could fully rely on my judgement of the artistic qualities, but did I not think 800 guineas rather a steep price for the picture? I wrote a letter of which you can guess the contents: "That I did not think 800 guineas a large sum to pay for a picture by you - that as art the panel was priceless, and as to paying 800 guineas for the priviledge [sic] of possessing it - was just as he felt inclined" - The place and value of your work etc and so on -

"This morning he writes me to ask you to send the picture -

"I am glad - Hurrah -"

(GUL MS Whistler S211)

The online edition of Whistler's Correspondence is exciting in that it has many things to reveal not only about Whistler himself, but also about the role of his friends and fellow artists in the wider artistic community of the nineteenth century.