The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 63rd Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1893-1894
Record 3 of 7

System Number: 13374
Date: 14 February 1894
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Alexander Reid[1]
Place: London
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 235
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALS[2]

110. Rue du Bac - Paris

Feb. 14. 1849 -

Dear Mr. Reid,

What is all this about your not reaping[3] and so not offending? - Why the more you reap the better, not only for yourself, but for me! -

It is your business to reap - and the greater your profit, the better for those with whom you deal -

If you - or Goupil - or Kennedy[4] buy a picture of mine for £5 - and sell it for £5000, up goes my price in the market - and most legitimate is your transaction and all to the good - But when these sneaking amateur tradesmen[5], under the cloak of Art Patronage, acquire [p. 2] a work for eighteen pence and sell it for thousands, it is quite a different matter! - The whole thing, to begin with, is whispered in the back parlour - and the less recognition either of artist or trace of crime the better! - The people outside know nothing of it - and the middleman is in an agony for fear I should find it out[6]!! - Whereas with you the whole matter is open & above board - and establishes the painters worth as well as your own wit in perceiving it -

Therefore go on - and prosper! - and make me the fortune I ought to have had long ago -

That you should sell anything you buy of me for double or treble the money you give me is my prayer - and if you can afford to "lay things down" and wait a bit you must eventually [p. 3] sell them for four or five times the sum they cost you -

Mind you my things cannot lose in value - that I know - There is no trick of fashion about them any more than there is any trick of the studio in their making -

They have never been popular wares, but, when asked for, they are no glut upon the market - So now you had better make a try for the "Fire Wheel"[7] - See now, I make no pretence - there is no St Johns Wood sham[8] about me - and while the Potters and Leathardts[9] & that lot are thriving on my pictures, I pose for no swell account at the bank and admit that times are ridiculously poor - and so am I! - Wherefore if in your innermost you, cherish a longing for the noble "Fire Wheel" and think you can keep it until the moment for superb "reaping" - why make a bid - don't be fainthearted - I am badly off - for the moment - I shall get over it of course - still -

[p. 4] The "Nocturne Blue & Silver"[10] I have also - But those are the last two of this lot - and this time business must be done with me - at last! -

I am glad about the Philadelphia affair[11] - and I trust it may come off, for I want none of the pictures back in England!! -

Why are you so little hopeful?

They tell me that over there they are are rather emballé[12] just now about their Country man -

Write any news.
Very sincerely

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


Charing Cross Hotel
Charing Cross
London W.C.
Alexander Reid Esqr
Societé des Beaux Arts
227 West George Street
[postmark:] PARIS 20 / [105] BD ST GERMAIN / 1E 16 / FEVR / 94
[postmark:] GLASGOW / 159 / 27 / FE 17 / 94


1.  Alexander Reid
Alexander Reid (1854-1936), Glasgow dealer [more].

2.  ALS
JW made a copy of this letter (#02685), and it was also copied by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  all this about your not reaping
JW is quoting from Reid's letter of 12 February 1894, #02684.

4.  Goupil - or Kennedy
Art dealers, thr Goupil Galleries and Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more].

5.  these sneaking amateur tradesmen
A number of patrons had sold works by JW after the success of Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces, Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892, including John Gerald Potter (1829-1908), wallpaper manufacturer and patron [more], who had sold Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52) and Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights (YMSM 115) in 1893 for £1400 to Arthur ('Peter') Haythorne Studd (1863-1919), painter and collector [more]. Potter had originally purchased Symphony in White, No. 2 for less than £150 and JW's indignation is expressed in a letter to E. G. Kennedy, 4 February 1894, #09715.

6.  find it out
Double underlined.

7.  the 'Fire Wheel'
Nocturne: Black and Gold - The Fire Wheel (YMSM 169).

8.  St Johns Wood sham
Fashionable artists living in the London suburb St Johns Wood included Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), painter [more] and John Adams-Acton (1834-1910), née John Adams, sculptor [more].

9.  Leathardts
James Leathart (1820-1895), collector [more].

10.  Nocturne Blue & Silver
Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Battersea Reach (YMSM 152).

11.  the Philadelphia affair
63rd Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1893-1894. Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242) was bought for the Wilstach Collection in 1894, the first work by JW bought for an American public collection.

12.  emballé
Fr., worked up.