The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 21st Autumn Exhibition of Pictures, Corporation of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1891
Record 18 of 21

System Number: 05594
Date: [October 1891][1]
Author: Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson[2]
Place: Liverpool
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler S240
Document Type: ALS

'R. A. M. Stevenson.'

2 York Avenue 2
Ullet Road
Sefton Park

My dear Whistler,

This is not the first letter I have written to you since I came here. But the other is cinders; for I did not wish to bother you to come here; and I was weak enough to say I would write and sound you on the subject.

However I didnt. I said it was great rot to ask you to come all [p. 2] that way for a horde of tallow fleshed idiots who dont look at your pictures, to look at you.

I wished to tell you how much I regretted not being able to pay my respects to Mrs. Whistler[3] and you as I passed through town

I wanted to hear of the hanging at Liverpool[4].

I should have written sooner but I a bad cold has kept me from wallowing in the Walker Art gallery until yesterday.

[p. 3] Now I have been. It is absurd for me to praise you to yourself but I cannot help saying that I wish England was of my mind about your work. I saw the Carlyle[5] in spring before I went to Italy and I came back liking it better than before I started. Then I saw the portrait at the Institute; now I see the one here[6] and I feel that, in spite of all I have written about you, I never used my opportunities fairly. I wish I had seen more of your work in the past. But even then, - I judge by other people, - it takes more than seeing to feel [p. 4] a new thing when one has been taught for years to look at something else, that comes of painting oneself and painting badly.

Now after the pleasure I had in your picture at the Walker Art gallery comes your note[7]. You know I wrote about the Carlyle before; now I feel the thing much more strongly. I have not yet seen Rathbone[8] but I will tackle him, on from myself, n of course not mentioning your note.

If the corporation wont take it on; I will try and get Rathbone stirred up to do it by some other [p. 5] means. A

As I left the gallery I met the Curator Dyall[9] a I sort of weather-cock of the Art Committee. He said "What do you think of our purchase - Greiffenhagen[10]"[.] I said "O all right but good God Why didnt you get the Whistler what could you have been thinking of"[.] He said "Some people who wish for art have a large swallow"[.] "Not so wide as those who work for religion" I said "but it means that if you wait you'll have to stump out as you did for [p. 6] Holman Hunt[11] some day."

I suppose Dyall to be the voice of the Art Committee

I must tell Rathbone that they might have had the Carlyle some years ago for £500 - last year for £1000 and that now they must pay £1200 for this; and had better look sharp.

If I see no chance I will let you know at once

[p. 7] The hanging of the gallery here is sublime.

I admire Jan Van Beers[12] nestled among those yellow or cinder skinned pompous [necked?] people of Richmond Mrs. Swynnerton[13] & others.

The most cruel thing is Watts[14] and Van Beers flanking you. Watts because of his English maid, a story book one, but very dirty and thumbed over, suggesting a comparison with your lady who is a real English type[,] [p. 8] soft, diaphanous, unseizable in feature but a walking expression. I am very much hit off by the dress and the its folds and the two or three firm appearances of fur and the black thing against the face and the hair and bit between the eye and ear; the mouth and suggestion of pearliness about the eyes. However you know all this and much more

yours very sincerely

R A M Stevenson

P. S. I would not have put the sixpenny silhouette so close to your picture. It True it shows its trick of the scissors & black paper sort but it is annoying to the eye in the midst of tranquility - but you know best your game. I have only been there once,

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1.  [October 1891]
Dated by reference to exhibition, 21st Autumn Exhibition of Pictures, Corporation of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1891.

2.  Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson
Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (1847-1900), painter and critic [more]. His name was written in another hand, in pencil at the top of p. 1.

3.  Mrs. Whistler
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].

4.  Liverpool
JW was on the hanging committee of 21st Autumn Exhibition of Pictures, Corporation of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1891. See his letter to B. Whistler, [13 August 1891], #06595.

5.  Carlyle
Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137).

6.  one here
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181). It was not bought by the Walker Art Gallery (see #05595).

7.  your note
Not located.

8.  Rathbone
Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895), collector [more].

9.  Dyall
Charles Dyall (b. ca 1831), Curator at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool [more]. See his letter to JW, [24 September 1891], #09064.

10.  Greiffenhagen
Maurice William Greiffenhagen (1862-1921), painter and illustrator [more]. This painting is M. Greiffenhagen, An Idyll (z254).

11.  Holman Hunt
William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), artist [more]. The Holman Hunt that Stevenson refers to is W. H. Hunt, The Triumph of the Innocents (z262), which had been bought earlier in the year for a very substantial sum, with £500 coming from the man who suggested the purchase, George Holt, £1500 from the Arts Committee, and £2000 from a public subscription, as reported in the Annual Report for 1891.

12.  Jan Van Beers
Jan van Beers (1852-1927), artist [more].

13.  Mrs. Swynnerton
Anna Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933), née Robinson, artist [more].

14.  Watts
George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), painter and sculptor [more].