The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Letter from JW to Charles James Whistler Hanson, Glasgow University Library, H55
Letter from JW to Charles James Whistler Hanson, Glasgow University Library, H55

The On-line Edition, University of Glasgow, 2003-2010

Edited by: Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp; including The Correspondence of Anna McNeill Whistler, 1829-1880, edited by Georgia Toutziari.

Currently available: Letters of J. McN. Whistler 1855-1903; A.M. Whistler, 1829-1881.



Research Funding

The edition of the Whistler correspondence, 1855-1903, has been supported by the British Academy Committee on Academy Research Projects, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Getty Grant Program, the John Sloan Memorial Trust, and Patricia Cornwell Enterprises. Additional grants have been made by made by Dorothy and Robert Kemper, Helen Farr Sloan and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.

Whistler Collections in Glasgow and Washington D.C.

The University of Glasgow and the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., hold the foremost collections of works of art by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) and work in partnership to further research and publication on Whistler and his art. The University of Glasgow, as residuary legatee of Whistler's estate through the will of his executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip, holds Whistler's copyright and has supported the publication of the correspondence as part of its commitment to make its collections available to researchers and the general public. The edition also makes extensive use of the Pennell-Whistler Collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., as well as other collections world-wide.

The Edition

In 1855, at the age of 21, Whistler left America to become an art student in Paris, and his correspondence continues until his death in 1903. Based on records of over 13,000 letters, including copies, surviving in public and private collections around the world, the on-line centenary edition makes available a total of some 10,000 letters covering this period. The edition includes all the letters written by Whistler and all the letters written to him; letters mentioning Whistler are also included on a selective basis.

The owner or other source of a letter is identified in the heading of each letter. The editors are grateful to institutional and private owners for permission to publish letters in their possession. See also the copyright notice below.

Please be aware that this site is regularly updated and the text content may change. The editors will be glad to learn of any letters that have not been recorded, or to receive information updating records or editorial text.

Editorial Practice

The transcriptions reproduce the text as written, including punctuation, capitalisation and errors of spelling, grammar and foreign accents; deletions and insertions are also marked. Occasional use has been made of '[sic]' to confirm that the text is indeed as written. Editorial insertions are marked by square brackets, including reference to drawings and Whistler's butterfly signature. Printed text, such as a printed or embossed letterhead, is given in capitals; line breaks in printed text are marked with a forward slash.

Following the five-figure reference number, the heading for each letter gives:

  • the date,
  • the author,
  • the recipient,
  • the location of the letter, and
  • the nature and authority of the text being used (for abbreviations see below).

Most letters for 1855-1903 are now available with full annotation. Since the search facilities allow any combination of letters to be selected, the annotation provided is meant to allow each letter to be read independently. This means there is some repetition of information within groups of connected letters. Editorial work on the whole edition is continuing and annotations may be updated from time to time.

Currently available search options include the following: People; Date; Subjects; Works of Art; Exhibitions; Institutions; Places and Free text. A search using any of these categories will provide a list of letters in chronological order.



Whistler is referred to throughout the edition as 'JW' and Anna Whistler as 'AMW'.


The abbreviation 'ALS' in the heading stands for 'autograph letter signed', showing that this is the original letter written wholly in the hand of the author.

Other abbreviations used are as follows:

(a) A autograph (written in the hand of the author)
  Ms hand-written by someone other than the author, such as a clerk
  P printed
  T typewritten
(b) L letter
  D document
  Dg drawing
  Env envelope
  N note
  W wire or telegram / telegraph
(c) d draft
  f fragment
  c copy
(d) S signed by author
  I initialled by the author

Common abbreviations used for this project include:

Msc: hand-written copy
ALd: autograph draft of a letter, not signed
ALdS: autograph draft of a letter, signed
TLS: typescript letter with autograph signature
PL: letter in print (normally, one that has been published)
PLfc: copy of fragment(s) of a letter in print (e.g. in sale catalogue)
ADS: autograph document signed
PD/Ms: printed document with hand-written insertions

Publications on Whistler

C The Art Institute of Chicago, The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, vol. 1, A Catalogue Raisonné, eds. Harriet K. Stratis and Martha Tedeschi. Catalogue entries by Nesta R. Spink, Harriet K. Stratis and Martha Tedeschi. Essays by Katharine Lochnan; vol. 2, Correspondence and Technical Studies, ed. Martha Tedeschi. Essays by Nicholas Smale and Harriet K. Stratis. Contributions by David Kiehl and Kevin Sharp. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago in association with the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, 1998.
GM Robert H. Getscher and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1986.
K Edward G. Kennedy, The Etched Work of Whistler. New York: Grolier Club, 1910.
M Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.
YMSM Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London; Yale University Press, 1980.
W Thomas R. Way, Mr Whistler's Lithographs. The Catalogue. 2nd ed., London: George Bell & Sons, and New York: H. Wunderlich & Co., 1905.

Selected Institutions

AAA Archives of American Art
AIC Art Institute of Chicago
BL British Library
BM British Museum
BMA Baltimore Museum of Art
FAS Fine Art Society
FGA Freer Gallery of Art
GUL Glasgow University Library. Unless stated otherwise, this refers to the Whistler Collection, Special Collections.
HAG Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
HRC Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas
ISSPG International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers
LC Library of Congress
NAL National Art Library
NEAC New English Art Club
NYPL New York Public Library
PRO Public Record Office
PWC Pennell-Whistler Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
RBA Royal Society of British Artists
SBA Society of British Artists
V&A Victoria and Albert Museum

Citing the Edition

The full citation for the edition is as follows:

The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903, edited by Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp; including The Correspondence of Anna McNeill Whistler, 1855-1880, edited by Georgia Toutziari.

On-line edition, University of Glasgow.

The standard abbreviation for the edition is 'GUW' [i.e. Glasgow University: Whistler]. Editorial information may be updated from time to time, and it is recommended that the citation of individual letters should include, in addition to the names of the sender and recipient and the date of the letter with repository information, the edition number and the date of consultation, given in the ISO 8601 form (YYYY-MM-DD), e.g. 'Whistler to James Anderson Rose, [20] November 1878, GUL R128; GUW 05230, (2003-10-14)'.


General Editors:
Professor Margaret MacDonald, Dr Patricia de Montfort, Professor Emeritus Nigel Thorp; Correspondence of Anna Whistler edited by Dr Georgia Toutziari.

Editorial Staff:
Dr Ailsa Boyd, Ian Meacock, Dr Joanna Meacock.

Systems Development:
Graeme Cannon.

Administrative and Editorial Assistant:
Susan Macallan.

Contributing Editors / Honorary Research Fellows:
Martin Hopkinson, Dorothy Kemper, Robert Kemper, Dr Norman MacDonald, Dr Linda Merrill, Dr Joy Newton, Dr John Siewert, Dr Martha Tedeschi.

Other Project Staff / Contributors:
Bill Boddington, Alison Duncan, Margaret Fox, Lee Glazer, Kirsty Gowling, Elizabeth Haine, Elizabeth Hancock, Erma Hermens, Jack Hervey, Valerie Howes, Margaret Isaacs, Kuni Ishibashi, Fiona McDonald, Helen MacDonald, Katherine MacDonald, Victoria Mier, Catherine Mooney, Dr Kenneth Myers, Julie Noel-Artaud, Dr Ayako Ono, Helen Prescott, Dr Mary Rigby, Todd Smith, Alexander Thorp, Arabella Thorp, Magnus Thorp, Monica Thorp, Charlene Tinney, Patricia Watson, Jay Wild, Beverly Wise.

Editorial Board:
Ruth Fine, Curator of Graphic Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Professor Peter France, University of Edinburgh
Professor Kenneth McConkey, University of Northumbria
Professor Jerome McGann, University of Virginia
Dr Linda Merrill, Atlanta
Dr Anna Gruetzner Robins, University of Reading
Professor Allen Staley, Columbia University
Professor Will Vaughan, Birkbeck College, University of London
Professor Michael Wheeler, University of Southampton

Copyright notice

These letters are protected by copyright. Copyright in the letters of James McNeill Whistler, Anna Whistler, Beatrix Whistler and Rosalind Birnie Philip, is owned by the University Court of the University of Glasgow ("the University"): their letters should not be reproduced or published in any form without the prior written consent of the University and, where the physical letter (as opposed to the copyright in the letter) is not owned by the University, without the prior written consent of the owner of the physical letter. Letters in the ownership of other institutions and of private individuals should not be reproduced or published in any form without the prior written consent of the owner. Copyright in the editorial text is owned by the University. This web-site is published by the University Court of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.