The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899
Record 44 of 54

System Number: 03196
Date: [29 July 1899][1]
Author: JW
Place: Pourville-sur-Mer[2]
Recipient: Charles Lang Freer[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 40
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[4]

I am delighted my dear Mr Freer that you like the pictures[5] you speak of - and wish to keep them -

They are yours of course - and I will tell you when we meet how glad I am that they go to the group you have of distinguished work in your Gallery -

And now you must yeild [p. 2] a point in proof of friendship and sympathy already proven!

Nothing is to be said about price in this matter - until the Blue Girl[6] takes her place to preside -

All this you will understand completely and feel with when we meet.

Meanwhile I think I may tell you without the least chance of being misunderstood, that I wish you to have a fine collection of Whistlers!! - perhaps The collection -

You see the Englishmen have all sold - "for 'tis their nature to," as Dr Watts[7] beautifully puts it - whatever paintings of mine they possessed! directly they were hall marked by the French Government[8], and established as of value - turning over, under my very eyes, literally for thousands what they had gotten for odd pounds! So that with the few "exceptions that prove the rule," there is scarcely a canvas of mine left in the land! While you will understand the mischievous pleasure I have in "constate-ing[9]" this fact, and so placing the British Macaenas[10] [sic] where he ought to be, behind the counter, & in his shop - you will also appreciate the lack of all [p. 3] communion between the artist and those who held his work! - and the great pleasure it gives him to look forward to other relations! -

I am glad you have the little "Cigale" - she is one of my latest pets - and of a rare type of beauty - the child herself I mean - and the painting - well the painting [ink blot] you see what I have said of it!!

The little Lady of Soho! I am glad you have chosen her too - I think before she is packed, I know of a touch I must add - and then she can follow you in the next steamer - But this I shall see when I come over - for I am getting stronger and hope perhaps next week I may[11] be able to cross - If the pictures have left the International[12], they will have gone to the "Company[13] of the Butterfly" 2 Hinde Street Manchester Square. - So I enclose the order. -

I have written to Messrs Heinemann to send you my book! The Baronet[14] and the Butterfly! You must tell me how you like my campagne[15], if you think it worthy of West Point[16]! -

Always sincerely

J McNeill Whistler

They[17] will tell you in Hinde Street about the prints -


Please deliver to Mr. Charles L. Freer my two pictures at the International Exhibition:

"La Cigale" & the little Lady Sophie of Soho.

J. McNeill Whistler

Pavillon Madeleine
pres Dieppe

To / Sec. "Co. of the Butterfly" 2. Hinde Street.
Manchester Square

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  29 July 1899
Dated from the enclosure.

2.  Pourville-sur-Mer
Address given on enclosure.

3.  Charles Lang Freer
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), industrialist, collector and founder of the Freer Gallery of Art [more].

4.  ALS
The paper has a broad mourning border. The letter was published in Spencer, Robin, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, New York, 1989, pp. 322-23, Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, pp. 167-68, and Merrill, Linda, With Kindest Regards. The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler, 1890-1903, Washington and London, 1995, no. 37, pp. 122-25.

5.  pictures
Rose and Brown: La Cigale (YMSM 495), and Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho (YMSM 504); see enclosure, below.

6.  Blue Girl
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Little Blue Girl (YMSM 421).

7.  Dr Watts
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), English theologian and hymn-writer: 'Let dogs delight to bark and bite, / For God hath made them so; / Let bears and lions growl and fight, / For 'tis their nature too.' 'Against Quarreling and Fighting,' Divine Songs, 1715.

8.  Government
A reference to the purchase by the French Government of Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101), for the Musée du Luxembourg, in 1891.

9.  constate-ing
From the French, 'constater', to prove.

10.  Macaenas
Gaius (Cilnius) Maecenas (d. 8 BC), Roman politician, known for his patronage of the arts [more].

11.  I may
Continued on p. 1, in the left and top margins, at right angles to the main text.

12.  International
2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899.

13.  Company
JW established the Company of the Butterfly in 1897 for the purpose of selling his works outside the studio; see Hopkinson, Martin J. , ''Whistler's 'Company of the Butterfly'", Burlington Magazine, vol. 136, October 1994, pp. 700-704.

14.  The Baronet
Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24]. This chronicles JW's quarrel with Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], over payment for Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). JW inscribed a copy of the book 'To Charles L. Freer - a determined friend / with affection / [butterfly signature]', and this was sent to Freer on 1 August (Rare Books Collection, FGA Library).

15.  campagne
i.e. 'campaign'.

16.  West Point
JW was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, from 1851 to 1854.

17.  They
Continued on p. 2 in the left margin, at right angles to the main text.