The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Francis Vielé-Griffin, 1863 or 1864-1937

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1863 or 1864
Place of Birth: Norfolk, VA
Date of Death: 1937
Place of Death: Bergerac


Francis Vielé-Griffin was a French Symbolist poet of American origin.


Whistler had met Vielé-Griffin by 1893. He was amongst those who frequented Whistler's Parisian home at 110 rue du Bac. Like Whistler, Vielé-Griffin also attended Stéphane Mallarmé's famous 'Mardis', the Symbolist Salon, at 89 rue de Rome. It is possible that it was Vielé-Griffin, or another poet in the same circle such as Mallarmé, who suggested the title for Purple and Gold: Phryne the Superb! - Builder of Temples (YMSM 490). Vielé-Griffin was responsible for translating the poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Charles Algernon Swinburne into French.

In 1895 Vielé-Griffin seconded Whistler in the George Moore quarrel, Moore having publicly sided with William Eden who in March of that year had brought an action against Whistler for not handing over a portrait of Lady Eden, Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). After the trial Whistler sent Moore a scathing letter and Moore responded by goading Whistler with old age. This reply was published in the Pall Mall Gazette and reprinted in the French papers. Whistler challenged Moore to a dual, and Vielé-Griffin and Octave Mirbeau acted as his seconds. However, Moore did not respond and Vielé-Griffin and Mirbeau sent a procès verbal to the press to say that they had waited eight days for an answer and, not having received one, considered the affair to be at an end. Whistler and Vielé-Griffin were in correspondence from 1892 until 1903.


Kuhn, Reinhard, The Return to Reality: a study of Francis Vielé-Griffin, Genéve, 1962; Gide, André, Correspondance avec Francis Vielé-Griffin, 1891-1931, Lyon, 1986; Fénion, Félix, Lettres de Francis Vielé Griffin (1890-1913): et documents annexes, ed. Henry de Paysac, Tusson, c.1990; Vielé-Griffin, Francis, L'amant des heures claires, 1994; 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; British Library on-line catalogue (accessed 2004).