The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Sidney Starr, 1866/1867-1921

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1866 or 1867
Place of Birth: Kingsborough, Hull
Date of Death: 1925.10.03
Place of Death: New York, NY


Sidney Starr was a painter of genre, portrait and landscape subjects.


Starr spent the first half of his artistic career in Britain and Europe, before moving to New York, where he died. He became a member of the Society of British Artists in the year of JW's presidency, that is, in 1886. JW's plans to reform the Society, which received a Royal charter in 1887, were poorly received and he was forced to resign in 1888. He took a large group of followers with him, including Starr, Frances Bate, Frederick Brown, Francis James, Paul Maitland, Theodore Roussel, Philip Wilson Steer, George Thomson, Bernhard Sickert and Walter Sickert. This group, headed by Walter Sickert, took control of the New English Art Club from 1888. They exhibited as the 'London Impressionists' at the Goupil Galleries in December 1889 and in Sickert's Chelsea studio, receiving support from two new periodicals, the Whirlwind and Art Weekly.

Starr's paintings of the 1880s were markedly Whistlerian, for example, his portrait of G. S. Willard which was exhibited at the SBA in 1886-7. Starr and JW were in correspondence in the early 1890s.

One letter sheds some light on Starr's role in the sale of the controversial nocturne Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), which sparked the Ruskin trial of 1878. On 2 September 1892, Starr wrote from New York to JW in Paris: 'Mr Untermyer wishes me to ask you to send the painting, 'The Falling Rocket' directly to his house [...] When your cable came Mr Untermyer was a little startled at the price, and asked me my opinion as to the commercial value etc, saying he could fully rely on my judgement of the artistic qualities, but did I not think 800 guineas rather a steep price for the picture? I wrote a letter of which you can guess the contents: 'That I did not think 800 guineas a large sum to pay for a picture by you - that as art the panel was priceless, and as to paying 800 guineas for the priviledge [sic] of possessing it - was just as he felt inclined' - The place and value of your work etc and so on - This morning he writes me to ask you to send the picture - I am glad - Hurrah' [#05565].


UK census 1881 from (accessed 2004); Starr, Sidney, 'Personal Recollections of Whistler', Atlantic Monthly, vol. 101, April 1908, pp. 528-37; 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.