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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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30th November 2003 - "A liar and a coward"

William Stott of Oldham was born this day in 1857. Stott was an English genre and landscape painter and was a great admirer of Whistler. Whistler's mistress Maud Franklin posed for Stott on a number of occasions, both clothed and nude; an example of Maud in Stott's work may be seen in the Birth of Venus (1887; Oldham Art Gallery), which was shown at the exhibition of the SBA in 1887.

During the time of the Ruskin trial, Maud was pregnant, and Whistler behaved extremely badly towards her. Leaving Maud at a hotel in January 1879, he pretended he was going to Paris, sending letters under cover to George Lucas in Paris to be sent back to her in London. It is not clear whether Maud ever realized the deception practised on her. However, she remained his partner.

However, in 1888, at the time of Whistler's marriage to Beatrice Godwin, Maud went to convalesce at the home of William Stott of Oldham after having been spurned by Whistler. It is clear that she was very hurt by the rejection she suffered, and this was the backdrop to a confrontation between Stott and Whistler which occurred at the Hogarth Club in January 1889.

Whistler relates his version of events to the Hogarth Club Committee on 4 January 1889:

"I beg to express my deep sense of regret at the episode of last night, in the drawing room of the Hogarth Club - when one of the newly elected members, Mr Stott of Oldham - entering the rooms at about midnight, came up to me, and, without preface of any kind, addressed me in the following terms: 'You are a liar and a coward' [...]

"I immediately rose up and slapped Mr Stott's face - a spontaneous movement, and gentlemen you must admit, most inevitable consequence of such gross insult.

"I am also grieved to add that the first slap, was followed by a second one, and the incident closed by a kick administered upon a part of Mr Stott of Oldham's body that finally turned towards me, and that I leave to him to specify.

"I thereupon resumed my interrupted conversation with Mr Reid, and was no further disturbed by Mr Stott of Oldham."

(GUL MS Whistler H243)

As a result of the incident, Stott was expelled from the Club, but perhaps might be seen to have gained a moral victory in his defence of Maud.