The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 2nd Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery, London, 1868
Record 2 of 2

System Number: 11991
Date: 25 November 1878
Author: High Court of Justice[1]
Place: London
Recipient: James Anderson Rose[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC
Document Type: PD

(p. 1) 25th Novr 1878.

Whistler, v. Ruskin[3]
Before Baron Huddlestone[4] and a Special Jury

Mr Serj[ean]t Parry[5], & Mr Petheram[6], for Plaintiff. -
The Att[orne]y General[7], & Mr. C. Bowen[8], for Def[endan]t. -
Serjt Parry opened Plaintiff's Case. -

Mr Whistler, Exam[ine]d by Mr Petheram. -

I am an artist - I lived in St. Petersburg about 12 or 14 years - My father[9] was the Engineer of the St. Petersburg & Moscow Railway - After I left Russia I went to America & was educated at West Point - I came back to Europe about 1856, I remained in Paris for some few years - Whilst there I went to M. Cleyer[10] [sic] - About two or three years I studied with him - My fellow students[11] were Armstrong, Poynter, Du Maurier - After I left Paris I came to London - I did independent work in Paris & worked as an artist there - I came to London & finally settled there about ...... - I have exhibited at the Royal Academy continually - The last time I exhibited at the Royal Academy was 3 or 4 years ago & it was the Portrait of my Mother[12] - I have sent none to the Royal Academy since - I sold the first picture exhibited at the Royal Academy called "At the Piano," to Mr Philip[13] ...... - "Alone with the Tide, Wapping," "Taking down Scaffolding at Old Westminster Bridge," "Ships in the Ice in the Thames," "The White Girl," not exhibited at the Royal Academy, at the Paris Salon - "The little White Girl," I have exhibited at the Salon in Paris. These pictures were painted by me for sale - Subsequently I exhibited at the Dudley Gallery - I have during the whole of career done etching & have published & exhibited a great many here & abroad & exhibited some at the Hague about 1863 or 1864, I received a Gold Medal for exhibiting there - A collection of my etchings has been kept at the Museum but not a complete collection - Also at Windsor for Her Majesty's Library - In 1877 Summer Exhibition at Grosvenor Gallery I exhibited in consequence of invitation by Sir Coutts Lindsay[14] - The pictures[15] I exhibited were 8 in number, A Nocturne in black & gold, a d[itt]o in blue & silver, a do. in blue & gold, a do. in blue & Silver, an Arrangement in black, an Harmony in amber & black, an Arrangement in brown, & Portrait of Thos Carlyle, Portrait was (p. 2) painted from sittings Carlyle gave me & it has since been engraved & a subscription for Proofs & the artists' proofs have all been subscribed for Before the Nocturnes went to the Grosvenor they were all sold but one, 2 sold, 1 presented, & 1 for sale, 1 to Hon: Percy Wyndham[16] for 200 Guineas, 1 sent to Mr. Graham[17], in exchange for an earlier commission of 150 Guineas, 1 presented to Mr Leyland[18] (blue & silver), the one not sold was the Nocturne in black & gold - It is my impression that ...... has a large circulation - I have not sold a Nocturne since the publication at the price - The pictures I have been able to get, are, The Arrangement in black, ([8?]) The portrait of Carlyle, the Nocturne in black & gold. - A Telegram came from Wyndham declining to lend it, Philip of Spain is not a finished picture & was not for sale & not exhibited as for sale - Witness explained the meaning of the word "Nocturne," "An Arrangement of line form and color." -

Cross-examined by Attorney General -

I devoted myself to etching, not absolutely, "Scenes on the River" & painted same, also I have sent several pictures to the Royal Academy, about 3 years ago, none since, - I have sent pictures to the Royal Academy - which have not been ...... - The last I sent which was refused, about 3 or 4 years ago - An Arrangement in gray & black, Portrait of Painter's Mother, which was afterwards accepted - I did not send any of the pictures exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery to the Royal Academy - Nocturne in black & gold, it is a night picture, and represents Fireworks at Cremorne, Not a View of Cremorne. It would not give the public a good idea of Cremorne, supposed to consider it is at nighttime - This picture was for sale at a price of 200 guineas which price I wanted for the picture & which I thought a fair & proper price for it - It was a pretty good price - I think you would call it a stiffish price - I have never had the pleasure of seeing Mr Ruskin, know him by reputation as having written Works on Art, "The Stones of Venice," "Modern Painters," are his works, I have not read his works - I don't know what is Mr Ruskin's idea as to an Artist & that an Artist should give as much value as possible, I believe those are his opinions - Artists are supposed to give full value for their money - The Nocturne in black & gold is a finished picture & I did not intend to bestow any more labor upon it, every color on the palette on it - The second picture Nocturne in blue & silver, I was paid 200 guineas for by Mr Percy Wyndham, (p. 3) bought on the walls of the Gallery, it was a River Scene - Nocturne in blue & silver, View in the Thames, Summer Time, Moonlight, to Mr Graham, I have not procured it, Mr Graham is in Italy - Nocturne in blue & silver, presented to Mr Leyland - Arrangement in black, Irving the Actor, I did not send it for sale, it was for myself. I did not say I ever intended to sell it, it is intended to be Mr. Irving's - Harmony in amber & black, a picture portrait of a young lady, This was not for sale, and it was in the Catalogue, I did not offer it for sale - Arrangement in brown, a similar one to the last mentioned - Harmony in amber & black, it was used & painted over - Arrangement in brown, I believe is here in the Court - The only picture I had in the Grosvenor Gallery marked for sale 200 guineas was the Nocturne in black & gold, "Cremorne" - I have been told the pictures contain eccentricities - They are sent to the Galleries for admiration or to court criticism, I do not expect the pictures will not be criticised unless they are entirely overlooked - The nocturne in black & gold was done in a day, completed on the second - The Nocturnes are put in the open air to dry, & I do think it is a good thing to do though I did not so treat the Nocturnes in black & gold - [A day to do the work & a day to finish it] - It is the knowledge of 20 years which I ask the price for. - [The Judge requested expressions of feeling would be suppressed] - I know that critics disagree with my views on pictures, I should not object to technical criticism, I expect to be criticised, not a case of ...... only - Nocturne in blue & Silver, - Nocturne in black & gold - [Discuss[io]n took place as to all the pictures being exhibited and where] - (Nocturne in blue & silver belonging to all Mr. Graham shewn to Witness) - Exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery - It was not my intent[io]n simply to make a copy of Battersea Bridge - [Shewn picture presented to Mr. Leyland] - Nocturne in blue and silver, I completed the mass of it in one day after hav[in]g arranged it in my mind. -

Cross-examinat[io]n postponed till picture brought back. - Re-examined by Serjt Parry -

The pictures which I have brought are "Portrait of Carlyle," "My Mother," "A young Lady," (not exhibited in the Grosvenor Gallery) 1 other Nocturne, and "Philip," also one exhibited at the Grosvenor last year, 1 other also a ...... Harmony in blue & yellow - All that are at my command are brought - Carlyle was not offered for sale - (p. 4) Nocturne in black & gold, about to be brought is the only one asked 200 Guineas for - It has been the study of my life as to the way the pictures are to be painted - I conscientiously ...... certainly done with an intention of gaining livelihood ...... depends the instantaneous work of my hand - Nocturne in black & gold produced - "Falling Rocket," one whole day it took me to paint, & finished it afterwds [sic] - That is a finished picture - The monogram is placed there not to present a proper balance - I think conscientiously that it is worth the money asked - I should not complain of any one taking a different view. -

Re-examined by Serjt Parry -

It was painted as an artistic impression or arrangement, as a problem worked out - I reside near the Chelsea Embankment & that induced me to take the Thames up as subject for most of them. -

W. M. Rossetti[19], Examined by Mr Serjt Parry -

I have been connected with literature & art since 1850 - I have during that period made Art my special study - I have been engaged very extensively & frequently criticising pictures - I have known Mr Whistler since 1863, & I know Mr Ruskin also - I have seen Mr. Whistler' pictures before - I consider I appreciate Mr Whistler's - I am satisfied with Mr. Whistler's ...... - I have criticised the Nocturne before - I consider Mr Leyland's picture a very artistic & beautiful representation of the pale blue moonlight - I consider to the one belonging to Mr. Graham the same observation applies, except it is a dark blue moonlight - To my eye it might be ...... - Nocturne in black & gold, Darkness of Night, ......& broken by lighting of fireworks - I saw the portrait of Mr Carlyle in the Gallery - [Judge, I say it is admissible as one of the pictures exhibited at the Gallery] - I think it is a very fine Portrait treated with a certain amount of peculiarity, a very excellent likeness - There were others exhibited in the Gallery - Taking them altogether I admired them sincerely, but not all without exception - I think them works of a conscientious artist. -

Cross-examd. by Attorney General -

I have been a critic & don't always praise - I criticised the Exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery - (p. 5) In the Academy - Mr Ruskin has written much on art - I believe he is Slade Professor of Arts at Oxford - The "Rockets," in the Gold, I do not say it is [a] gem or an exquisite work of art, or very beautiful, it is unlike the painting of other artists - I consider it a work of an artist - I have never seen the Grasshopper at the ...... or ...... in Paris - I don't think it is at all necessary for it to have labor & finish - I could not form an opinion with the light & short sightedness - I think 200 guineas is the full value and I think it is worth it - I am too poor to give it. -

Re-examd. by Serjt Parry -

I believe Mr Ruskin has abused as ...... - I do not think it is an indifferent work, but is a work of a conscientious artist - No harm in represent[in]g fireworks. -

Albert Moore[20] -

I am an artist - I have sketched in Rome, and visited all the Picture Galleries - 5 years I have made my living by it - I have exhibit & do exhibit in the Royal Academy - recently in the Grosvenor Gallery - I continue to exhibit at the Royal Academy - I have seen pictures produced here - I have known Mr Whistler for 14 years - I do not know Mr Ruskin - I think these pictures of Mr Whistler are that he has succeeded & no living painter could succeed in the same way - I consider them beautiful works of art - I wish I could paint as well - I think Mr Whistler has painted the air especially the one on the bridge - As to the black & gold, I think it is simply marvellous - the fireworks - I call it a most consummate work of art, a beautiful work of art - I should say 200 guineas is a very reasonable price - I have seen the picture of Carlyle, it is good as a portrait, and excellent as a picture - I exhibited in the Grosvenor myself. -

Cross-examd. by the Attorney General -

I exhibited myself in 1877 at the Grosvenor - I am not the head of a particular school of art - I don't paint the same style of pictures as well as Mr Whistler - Velasque[21] [sic] & others were of a school - I say it is a beautiful picture - I would be willing to give £200 for it, I say there is originality in it - The frame may add to the beauty of it, probably it does in these cases - I do not know Mr Ruskin, I believe Mr Ruskin has devoted a lifetime to criticism and art. -

(p. 6) W. G. Wills[22] - Examd. by Serjt. Parry -

I am a Dramatic Writer, have written several Plays - I still continue the pursuit of art as a means of livelihood - I know Mr Whistler very well, for 7 or 8 years. I have been a great admirer of his works - I have seen the two blue & silver, I though there was a considerable charm about them - a great knowledge of art - I saw than at the exhibition in 1877 - nature, age, & feeling for color - I think he must carefully have studied before the [sic] finished the pictures & the conception of it - I believe them to be the work of a man of art and a genius. -

Cross-examd by the Attorney General -

I do not know Mr. Ruskin - I have been criticised severely - I do not object to being criticised. I have not seen the Grasshopper - They are beautiful works of art in my opinion - I have never seen the black & gold before - I don't quarrel with other people's opinions - I should call them originals. -

Re-examd. by Serjt Parry -

I exhibited a picture in the Gallery in 1877 - I don't object to honorable and fair criticism. -

Plaintiff's Case

Ld. C. T. Erle - Lord Ellenborough - Tarbard & Tipper - Campbell -
The Attorney General opened the Defendant's Case. -
Leave to amend given so as to plead privilege for criticism in respect of all the pictures exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. -
Adjourned till tomorrow at 10. 30. -

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  High Court of Justice
This is a transcript of proceedings in court on the 25 November 1878, probably written by a court official.

2.  James Anderson Rose
This transcription was probably made for James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more].

3.  Whistler, v. Ruskin
This document relates to JW's libel suit against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more]. The suit was in response to Ruskin's criticism of JW's works, especially Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), in his periodical Fors Clavigera. On 2 July 1877, he accused JW of 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face' in a review of the I Summer Exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery, London. See Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213. The trial took place at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878.

4.  Baron Huddlestone
Sir John Walter Huddleston (1817-1890), High Court Justice, Exchequer Division [more].

5.  Parry
John Humffrey Parry (1816-1880), Sergeant-at-law.

6.  Petheram
William Comer Petheram (1835-1922), barrister [more].

7.  The Att[orne]y General
Sir John Holker (1828-1882), Attorney General, counsel for John Ruskin [more].

8.  Mr. C. Bowen
Charles Synge Christopher Bowen (1835-1894), Counsel for John Ruskin [more].

9.  father
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

10.  M. Cleyer
A misspelling of Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1806-1874), painter [more].

11.  fellow students
JW's fellow pupils included Edward John Poynter (1836-1919), history and genre painter [more]; Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911), artist and Director of Art, South Kensington Museum [more]; and George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (1834-1896), author and caricaturist [more].

12.  Portrait of my Mother
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

13.  Mr Philip
At the Piano (YMSM 24) was bought by John ('Spanish') Phillip (1817-1867), artist [more].

14.  Sir Coutts Lindsay
Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913), Bart., co-founder of the Grosvenor Gallery [more].

15.  pictures
JW exhibited seven oils at the 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877 (cat. nos. 5, 6A, 6, 4, 8, 9 and one ex. cat). These were Nocturne in Blue and Silver (YMSM 113), Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140) as 'Nocturne in Blue and Silver', Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Westminster Bridge (YMSM 145), Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181) as 'Harmony in Amber and Black', Arrangement in Brown (YMSM 182) and Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain (YMSM 187). Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137), was exhibited in the entrance gallery (ex. cat.).

16.  Percy Wyndham
Percy Wyndham (1835-1911), collector [more].

17.  Mr. Graham
William Graham (1817-1885), MP and collector [more].

18.  Mr Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

19.  W. M. Rossetti
William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more]. See Rossetti's rather hesitant letter to Rose shortly before the trial regarding his testimony, #08786.

20.  Albert Moore
Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), painter [more].

21.  Velasque
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more].

22.  W. G. Wills
William Gorman Wills (1828-1891), playwright and painter [more].