The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Frank J. Hecker, 1846-1927

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1846.07.09
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1927.06.26
Place of Death:


Colonel Frank J. Hecker was a manufacturer and collector.


Hecker fought in the Spanish-American war. He was Chief of the Division of Trai[ning?]. He became manager of the Kingston and Syracuse Railroad. He made C. L. Freer paymaster of the railroad, having noticed his talent for business. In 1880 the two men became partners and opened the first railway carriage factory in the Midwest, the Peninsular Car Works. However, at the age of forty-four Freer was forced to retire due to health reasons. Both men were by this time extremely wealthy and were becoming major collectors.

Hecker was probably introduced to the work of Whistler through Freer. Freer bought his first Whistler etchings in 1887 and met Whistler personally in March 1890, from which point he became Whistler's valued friend and patron. Whistler and Hecker were in communication by 1894 when Whistler sought to introduce the English publisher William Heinemann to him (#08589). On 26 July 1894 Hecker bought Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room (YMSM 34) for £500. He lent the work to the Whistler memorial exhibitions held in Boston in 1904 and Paris in 1905. It was given by Hecker to Freer in June 1917.

Hecker also bought a number of Whistler's lithographs and on 27 December 1894 wrote to Whistler that he was having difficulty clearing a shipment of 39 lithographs, sent from Paris by Freer, with the U.S. customs. He requested that Whistler obtain a consular certificate stating that the lithographs were his work and that he was an American artist, in order to prevent duty being paid on them (#02066). Freer possibly bought Zuyder Zee (M.962) on behalf of Hecker. It was lent by Hecker to the Whistler memorial exhibition in Boston in 1904. Also lent was Spring (M.1397), bought by Freer and later sold to Hecker.


Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Bonomi, Kathryn, 'Charles Lang Freer', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 24 May 2002).