The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1834-1890

Nationality: Austrian
Date of Birth: 1834.07.06
Place of Birth: Vienna
Date of Death: 1890.12.12
Place of Death: London


Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm was Hungarian by descent and Austrian by birth and education. His father was Director of the Imperial Mint, and an important collector of art, ancient and modern. He married Frances Louisa Boehm (d. 1890), née Boteler.


As a young man Boehm spent much time studying old master drawings and the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. He became one of the foremost sculptors in Britain. He won the Imperial Prize at Vienna in 1856, settled in London in 1862 and was naturalised in 1865, becoming ARA in 1878, and RA in 1882. He was appointed Sculptor-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria. His most well known sculptures in London are his General Gordon in St Paul's, Wellington at Hyde Park Corner, his Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the Temple Bar monument on Fleet Street, and his Tyndale in the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Boehm produced a bust of JW in terracotta in 1872, which was regarded as a very good portrait. At JW's bankruptcy it was bought by Thomas Way for six guineas. It appears that in 1878 JW intended to paint Boehm's portrait [#00499], but the painting was never carried out. In 1879 Boehm agreed to execute decorations for JW's White House, the Metropolitan Board of Works having insisted on the inclusion of certain stone mouldings to enliven the facade. However, these designs were not executed.

JW and Boehm were in correspondence between 1868 and 1890. They were on extremely friendly terms and supported each other in their careers. In October 1878 Boehm asked JW, whom he playfully called 'Mac', to speak a favourable word to his American contacts in order that Boehm might secure a commission to sculpt an equestrian statue of General Lee (#00320). JW, who affectionately referred to Boehm as 'Spuch', in turn asked his friend to appear as a witness on his behalf at the Ruskin v Whistler trial of November 1878 (#00322).

In the early 1880s JW asked Boehm to wield any possible influence he might have to insure that George McCullough should obtain the Curatorship of the Royal Academy (#07620). In 1890 JW presented Boehm with a copy of his Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890) in which he had made a personal dedication to his friend.


Stocker, Mark, Royalist and Realist: The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, New York, 1988; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Soros, Susan Weber (ed.), E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, New Haven and London, 1999; Stocker, Mark, 'Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 30 November 2001).