The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 4th Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1880
Record 2 of 4

System Number: 06689
Date: [March 1880][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Venice]
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W683
Document Type: ALS

My dear Nellie -

I do hope the Mother[3] is better - and that you will write me at once another nice letter to say so - I got off a letter to Elden[4] last night which as I had forgotten his address I sent to your care - Tell him to be sure and put his address, on his answer, in full - I suppose you will all consult together and the wisest and best thing will probably be thought out and done - Very possibly the plot may have been conceived and hatched by Howell[5] and Leyland[6] together - Suppose now that Howell were to have said to Leyland look here I can get those lobsters and Caldecott pictures[7] out of the way - you shall have them to destroy - for so much - ? or suppose Leyland made the proposition himself - nothing more likely - you must remember that he had been to the studio one afternoon with Mrs. Caldecott[8] after my departure - and had seen the lobsters and Ararat "various"[9] well then how rational then that he should conspire with Howell - for their removal - and subsequent destruction - The 3 girls[10] may be in pawn or otherwise disposed of Howell, or kept by him for future transaction! - Why [p. 2] might he not purpose by and bye showing the original as a copy "painted you know expressly for me by Whistler many years ago old chap!" - . . . . . . . and meanwhile induce the Waddells[11] to believe that the copy[12] he knows you to have is the original "3 girls" now missing! - How capital it would be if we could trace this little purloining business back to Leyland !! - We would have him hanged or transported like his father! - Wouldn't it be well if Willie[13] were to call on Waddell by appointment some morning and simply say to him (he is a very nice fellow) I know perfectly what you are looking for Mr. Waddell, and I have not got them! - - I should simply have written only that I wished to see you yourself, and not your clerk, that I might talk the matter over with you and tell you how outraged my brother is at the mysterious and altogether unaccountable disappearance of the 3 girls, and lobsters, &c. &c. He has begged that I would see you and beg you to find them - as he is determined, not only for the satisfaction of all concerned but for himself, to discover the pictures" - etc. etc - Then he can take him to Wimpole Street[14] and show him the three Girls - or make an appointment for him to come - tell him that this is a rough copy made from the original when that was larger given to the Creditors - made when everything that I did was to be my own according to Waddell's assurance[.] Also show him the blue Girl [15] and explain that this with the other rags and destroyed canvases were left in the studio and brought finally to you by his direction or permission - But he will want nothing of the kind though it is at his disposal, if you clearly make him understand that this is not the blue Girl missing - Connie Gilchrist in blue - in short[16] that these are not the pictures he is after - that I am after also - and hope certainly to trace - and request urge him to do his best - Let Elden go with Willie - he can tell him about my doing the copy - and also all that John had said about the departure of the 3 girls and Connie in blue with the lobsters &c - &c - from the White House[17] upon an Auctioneers order - The man in pos[s]ession (Watson[18]) could also tell the story - and who knows but what John[19] himself may be back in town at this moment - You can all talk it over - and Way[20] might be hurt if he were left out - and I fancy it would certainly be right to consult George Lewis[21] - Now my dear Nellie I fell asleep over all this several times last night as I told you I should, for I do get so worn out after my days work that I am quite unfit for anything - This must go now as I know you are all anxious for my answer - Elden will read you what I have said about my work - for by dint of writing a scrap now and then I have told him something about it - I am awfully sorry that you should be bothered with all the canvases[22] about the place - don't you think Elden could show how to take them off their stretchers and roll them all up together and then they with their stretchers in pieces might be put quite out of the way in a corner - Things are trying with you all you say and the show[23] is in a bad way - Well things are terribly provoking here with the hard bitter weather against which I can make very little head way - but I do hope when I get [p. 3] back to make a nice little haul of guineas and then I might be able to help my weeny bit towards the general merriment of the show where I was for such a long time so pleasantly entertained and tolerated - The pastels[24] you know Nellie I verily believe will be irresistable [sic] to buyers - in them I have found what Elden would call "the game" - as far as the pocket goes - I assure you the people - painter fellows[25] here, who have seen them are quite startled at their brilliancy - Besides you will be delighted with them yourself, and we shall have such a jolly time looking them all over - I have ordered the frames through the Fine Arts Society[26] - so that they shall be all ready when I come - and we can put them in together - Dear me how I look forward to that day - If all goes well we might frame them all first and then have Huish[27] round to breakfast with Elden and make a swell show afterwards. - Oh and then the etchings[28] - and hmm! ... something too perhaps for the Grosvenor[29] ... who knows - and I shall have such a lot to say about the Ruskin[30] lot ... and in short various! and I suppose you will find me very trying! - Tell Willie to ask Huish to lend him the letter[31] I wrote to him some time ago in which I had a shot at the amateurs who do big plates - I need only tell you that it will satisfy even Elden! - I wish Willie might find among my papers, my little book of addresses - "where is it" - and send it to me by Post - Also ask Miss Caird[32], to whom many amiable things, for the number and name of her Gondolier - I have forgotten them - And write at once Nellie and tell me that the Mother is better and tell me all the news - How was it that Mrs. Leyland[33] did not go to [Furnis?] funeral[34]

[p. 1] What about Holland Park[35]? -

Goodbye - love to the Mother and Sis[36] -

Jim -

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [March 1880]
JW was in Venice from September 1879 to November 1880. This letter was probably written after JW's letter to Helen Whistler in March 1880 (#06687).

2.  Helen Euphrosyne Whistler
Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917), née Ellen Ionides, JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

4.  letter to Elden
Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more].

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

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

7.  lobsters and Caldecott pictures
The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209), and probably a caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Gold Scab (YMSM 208).

8.  Mrs. Caldecott
Rosa Laura Caldecutt (1843?-1890), mistress of F. R. Leyland [more].

9.  Ararat various
Mount Ararat (YMSM 210), and other caricatures mentioned above. 'Various' implied JW's affairs, whether art or financial.

10.  3 girls
The Three Girls (YMSM 88).

11.  Waddells
Messrs. Waddell and Co., in charge of JW's bankrupt estate.

12.  copy
Pink and Grey: Three Figures (YMSM 89).

13.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

14.  Wimpole Street
William and Helen Whistler lived in Wimpole Street.

15.  blue Girl
Possibly The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111), The Blue Girl: Maud Franklin (YMSM 112) or Arrangement in Blue and Green (YMSM 193).

16.  that this is short -
This phrase was inserted above the line. The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 207). JW also painted Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Gold Girl - Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 190).

17.  White House
The White House, JW's house in Tite Street, was sold on 18 September 1879.

18.  Watson
Watson, care-taker or bailiff at the White House, Tite Street.

19.  John
John Cossins, JW's valet [more] (see also #06687).

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

21.  George Lewis
Sir George Henry Lewis (1833-1911), society lawyer [more].

22.  canvases
Unfinished or destroyed canvases. JW destroyed paintings to prevent them being sold at the time of his bankruptcy.

23.  show
JW meant his affairs, not specifically an exhibition.

24.  pastels
Venice pastels (M.725-828).

25.  painter fellows
Artists from Europe and America were gathered in Venice. Among them were friends such as Ralph Wormeley Curtis (1854-1922), artist [more]; Martín Rico y Ortega (1833-1908), genre painter [more]; William Graham (1841-1910), artist [more], and William Logsdail (1859-1944), landscape and genre painter [more] (who both lent JW their studio at different times); and Alexandre Nicolaievitch Roussoff or Volkoff-Muromsoff (1844-1928), genre and landscape painter, watercolourist [more] (who competed with JW in drawing pastels). Also there were Eugène de [or von] Blaas (1843-1931), artist [more]; Ettore Tito (1859-1941), painter [more], and many others. William H. Jobbins (fl. 1872-1893), painter of Venetian views [more], and John Wharlton Bunney (1828-1882), painter [more], were in Venice, but not among the admirers of JW's work. By summer there were a group of American art students in Venice, with Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

26.  Fine Arts Society
JW had been commissioned by the Fine Art Society to make a set of etchings, which was published on his return as (Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5)).

27.  Huish
Marcus Bourne Huish (1843 - d.1921), barrister, writer and art dealer, Director of the Fine Art Society [more].

28.  etchings
JW did fifty etchings in Venice (K.183-232, 240).

29.  Grosvenor
IV Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, opened in May 1880.

30.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

31.  letter
Towards the end of January JW had written to M. B. Huish about his abhorence of large copper-plates (#02992).

32.  Miss Caird
Ellen Caird, friend of Mrs F. Leyland, possibly a sister of Sir James Caird.

33.  Mrs. Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].

34.  [Furnis ?] funeral

35.  Holland Park
The rich and cultured residents of Holland Park included Sara and Thoby Prinsep. The Prinseps lived in Little Holland House from 1851-1874, with the Pre-Raphaelites as regular guests - indeed, G. F. Watts stayed for 23 years. In 1864, their son Valentine Prinsep built a studio/house at 1 (now 14) Holland Park Road, while Frederick Leighton built his famous house at No. 2, and Watts, a house behind that. Many other artists including Albert Moore, Luke Fildes, and John Butler Yeats lived in the area. JW's patron, the Greek shipowner Constantine Alexander Ionides, lived at No. 8 Holland Villas Road, one son Lucas Ionides at No. 16, and another, Alexander, at No. 1 Holland Park, next door to his brother-in-law, Theodore Coronio.

36.  Sis
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]. JW wrote to her on 1 January 1880 (#01919).