The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Sidney Colvin, 1845-1927

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1845.06.18
Place of Birth: Norwood, Surrey
Date of Death: 1927.05.11
Place of Death:


Sidney Colvin was a critic and scholar.


Between about 1868 and 1870 Colvin was art critic for the Pall Mall Gazette. He became Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge in 1873 and Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1876. In 1885 he invited JW to Cambridge to give his 'Ten O'Clock Lecture' to the Undergraduates' Fine Arts Society, that is, 'undergraduates with a sprinkling of miscellaneous people and ladies' (#00677). This JW did on 24 March (#13689). According to Pennell, Colvin described JW as having a 'strident peacock laugh'.

From 1884 to 1912, Colvin was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, and in this capacity testified at the Pennell vs. Sickert trial in 1897. The libel suit brought by Pennell was as a result of a comment by Sickert in the Saturday Review concerning Pennell's lithographs of Granada at the Fine Art Society which had been drawn on lithographic paper and transferred by Thomas Way to stone. JW saw it as an attack on his own work and was the principal witness. Colvin declared that within his profession no difference was made in classifying lithographs drawn on paper and those done on stone.

Colvin was also a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson whose works and letters he edited. He wrote a number of studies on literature and art, including Early Engraving and Engravers in England (1905), and John Keats: His Life and Poetry (1917).


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Colvin, Sidney, Memories and Notes of Persons and Places, 1852-1912, London, 1921; Colvin, Sidney (ed.), The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, London, 1913; Hind, Arthur Mayger and Sidney Colvin (eds.), Guide to the Collection of Early Italian Engravings Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings, 2 vols., London, 1909-10; Stevenson, Robert Louis (ed.), Vailima Letters: Being Correspondence Addressing by Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin, November 1890 - October 1894, London, 1917; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.