The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Venice Pastels, The Fine Art Society, London, 1881
Record 4 of 49

System Number: 01107
Date: 31 January 1880[1]
Author: Ernest George Brown[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [Venice]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler F38
Document Type: ALS

32 Lyme St
Camden Town

Jany 31st 1880

Dear Mr Whistler,

I was very glad indeed to hear from you at last. Mr Huish[3] read me your long and amusing letter and I was sorry to learn that you had been ill[4], though I had heard a rumour of this before. I also heard through Mrs Poynter[5] that you had been seen in Venice and this is nearly all the news we have had of you.

Your wishes shall be attended to[.] I send you by this post four balls of ground[6] and a bottle of stopping out varnish[7] and hope they will be what you want. If not let me know at once and I will try again. [p. 2] The paper[8] will not be quite such an easy matter but I have written to Goulding[9] and will post it to you as soon as I get it. I think the etchings[10] will be a great success and have prepared the people for "something swell"[.] Though I must say I think it a pity they were not published by the first of January. I have persuaded a great many people to put off buying etchings until they had seen yours and they are growing tired of waiting. And the worst of it is I have heard today that Dowdeswell[11] has announced two new plates by you[.] Of course I know they cannot really be new but the public will not know this and it puts us in an awkward position. Where did they get them from? I think the time is just ripe for [p. 3] the Venice etchings as there has been a devil of a row here about St Marks[12] and any drawings of Venice we have had have sold immediately.

I did not believe the tale that you were doing huge surveyers [sic] plans like Haden[13]. By the way his new etching of Greenwich[14] has been published and has not been a particular success though it is better than Windsor[15], which it couldn't well help being.

I told Mr Tissot[16] I was going to write to you and he asked me to send you his kind regards and very best wishes for your success and also those of a certain lady[17] whom he said you would know[.] Mr Way[18], Mr Eldred[19], Mr Ridley[20] and Mr Howell[21] have all been asking about you also Mr Pelligrini[22] [sic].

We are publishing a great many etchings as you will see by the catalogue[23] enclosed.

[p. 4] Old Ruskin (of[24] y whom we have had quite enough lately) is going to give a lecture in London under the title of "A Caution to Snakes"[.] A fine subject is'nt it

Your pastel[25] drawings together with your etchings will make a big "show[26]" when you come back.

Can I do anything more for you in London, if so, please let me know and I shall be only too pleased.

Hoping we shall soon have something to show

I am
most sincerely yours

Ernest G. Brown

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  31 January 1880
Written in reply to JW's undated letter, #03600.

2.  Ernest George Brown
Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more].

3.  Mr Huish
Marcus Bourne Huish (1843 - d.1921), barrister, writer and art dealer, Director of the Fine Art Society [more], had written to JW on 14 January (#01105). JW's reply is undated (#02992).

4.  ill
JW suffered from a persistent sore throat (see #02992 and #06687).

5.  Mrs Poynter
Agnes Poynter (ca 1846 - d.1906), née Macdonald, wife of E. J. Poynter [more]. Edward John Poynter (1836-1919), history and genre painter [more], was in Venice during part of Whistler's sojourn there 1879-1880.

6.  ground
An acid resistant varnish spread on the copperplate to prepare it for etching.

7.  stopping out varnish
Stopping out varnish is used to block out lines or areas on the copper plate that need no further etching.

8.  paper
JW wanted old paper, rather than contemporary chemical bleached paper, for printing proofs.

9.  Goulding
Frederick Goulding (1842-1909), printer and print-maker [more].

10.  etchings
The first set of twelve etchings, Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5), was published by the Fine Art Society in 1880.

11.  Dowdeswell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more], sold two etching plates to Messrs Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell of 36 Chancery Lane, London. They circulated a leaflet (#02856) proposing publication of 'two new Etchings', Tatting (K.112) and Two Ships (K.148). These were not 'new' but dated from c. 1873 and 1875 respectively. As far as is known, no large edition was published.

12.  St Marks
John Ruskin and William Morris (1834-1896), painter, designer, poet and socialist [more] had established a Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, and there was considerable press coverage of the controversy about the extent and efficiency of the long-running restorations to St Marks. When Whistler painted Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice (YMSM 213), the cathedral was shrouded in scaffolding.

13.  Haden
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. Haden's largest etching, Francis Seymour Haden, Calais Pier after Turner (S.141) (z56) (D140, H157, S141) was 597 x 838mm (23 ½ x 33"). It was praised by J. Ruskin, and printed by F. Goulding in 1875.

14.  Greenwich
F. S. Haden's etching Francis Seymour Haden, Greenwich (S.187) (z57), 1879-80 (D184, H207-8, S187) was commissioned by the Fine Art Society. Greenwich was a large plate, 341 x 520mm (13 3/8 x 20 ½"), heavily detailed, stiff, and lacking JW's lightness of line.

15.  Windsor
F. S. Haden's etching Francis Seymour Haden, Windsor (S. 186) (z58), 1878 (D183, H199, S186), was commissioned by the Fine Art Society. Windsor was a somewhat pedestrian and consciously classical composition.

16.  Mr Tissot
Jacques ('James') Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), painter and etcher [more], was afraid to testify for JW in the Ruskin Trial in 1878, so this greeting appears somewhat ironical.

17.  a certain lady
Possibly Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more]. She had parted amicably from JW, but some time earlier she was, at least in part, the cause of the quarrel between JW and Jacques ('James') Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), painter and etcher [more].

18.  Mr Way
Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more].

19.  Mr Eldred
Possibly Lemuel D. Eldred (1848-1921), marine painter and etcher [more], although Brown may mean Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more] (see #01049).

20.  Mr Ridley
Matthew White Ridley (1837-1888), painter and etcher [more].

21.  Mr Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

22.  Mr Pelligrini
Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), alias 'Ape', cartoonist for Vanity Fair, designer and lithographer [more].

23.  catalogue
Not identified.

24.  Ruskin (of
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more]. 'of' was written over 'is'.

25.  pastel
See M.725-828.

26.  show
The exhibition of Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5) opened at the Fine Art Society, London, in December 1880, followed by Venice Pastelson 29 January 1881.