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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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28th November 2003 - Whistler, Ruskin, Titian and Moore

The following letter was sent to the Editor of the Daily News and was published in that newspaper on 30 November 1878. The author, Albert Moore, had appeared in Whistler's defence at the Whistler-Ruskin trial in November 1878, and here discusses his reactions to the production (by Ruskin's counsel) of an old master painting in court:

"Sir, -

"It has been reported in some of the newspapers that I made a statement in the witness-box to the effect that I was an art critic, and I venture to hope that I may rely on your kindly giving publicity to my denial of this, as nothing of the kind was mentioned, and as I have, in fact, no claim to be counted among the privileged fraternity. I have, however, in the ordinary course of endeavouring to learn my profession, made myself acquainted with the works of the old masters, and feel entitled to point out that the picture by Titian, produced in the case of "Whistler v. Ruskin," is an early specimen of the master, and does not represent, adequately, the style and qualities which have obtained for him his great reputation; one obvious point of difference between this and his more mature work being the far greater amount of finish - I do not say completeness - exhibited in it. I do not anticipate that Mr. Ruskin's own witnesses will question the accuracy of this statement, and as the picture was brought forward with a view to inform the jury as to the nature of the work of the greatest painter, and more especially as to the high finish introduced in it, it is evident that it was calculated to produce an erroneous impression on their minds, if, indeed, anyone present at the inquiry can hold that those gentlemen were in any way fitted to understand the issues raised therein.

"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

"A. Moore.

"1, Holland-lane, Kensington, W., Nov. 28."


In a letter to Whistler on 30 November 1878, the artist's lawyer James A. Rose makes mention of the use of the Titian in the court room:

"The production of a Titian by the Defendant Ruskin ought alone to have given you a substantial Verdict. Anything more unfair could not be executed or conceived and if it was necessary to bring a Titian to compete with you then indeed the Libel must have been most unjustifiable."

(GUL MS Whistler R131)