The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Jonathan Sturges, 1864-1911

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1864
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1911
Place of Death:


Jonathan Sturges was a writer.


Sturges, a Princeton graduate, had been a cripple from childhood and was an attractive and charming man, of considerable taste and intellect. His book of stories, The First Supper and Other Episodes, was published in 1893.

He first met Whistler around 1895, possibly in Paris, although Sturges lived mostly in England. Whistler's letters to him were remarkably open and revealing. He called him, 'a true and noble Jonathan... loyal... a preux Chevalier.' They shared a number of mutual friends including Henry James, Harper Pennington, George Washington Vanderbilt and the Pennells. It may have been though Sturges that Vanderbilt met Whistler in London in May 1897.

Around 1898 Whistler designed a monogram of Sturges' initials possibly for a seal, signet ring or collector's mark, Designs for a monogram for Jonathan Sturges (M.1536). At this time Sturges was closely involved with Whistler's affairs and the publication of The Baronet and the Butterfly.

Sturges was in some ways the original of Little Bilham in The Ambassadors (1903) by Henry James.


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, Holland, Merlin and Rupert Hart-Davis, eds, The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, London, 2000.