The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Special Exhibition of Paintings by American Artists at Home and in Europe, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1881-1882
Record 2 of 4

System Number: 06694
Date: [September 1881?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: [Guernsey]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W688
Document Type: ALS

My dear Nellie -

I suppose you both think it awfully remiss in me - not writing at all after Willie[3]['s] two jolly long letters[4] - and dear me - I suppose it is - Well you know first I have been tremendously hard at work - and then lots of things - Mrs Meux[5] came to town and we had up the pictures and slaved away until one of them is supposed to be finished - though it isn't! - and then off she went again - Meanwhile of course there came the haunch of venison business - and very nice and [p. 2] kind it was in her - wasn't it? - She took your address and sent the game herself direct - So Willie had better write a letter of thanks to her to 41. Park Lane - and put on the envelope "To be forwarded" - for I really don't know how to write her Scotch address even now! - He can say that he has waited in vain to hear from me - so that he might write to Scotland and now that he sends his letter to London after all - Indeed in a note I have written to her I said that she would have heard from Willie were it not my fault - that I alone am to blame - So you see it is all right - The weather here is most woeful! Rain - its raining now! - and cold it has been - like winter! - most discouraging - Mrs Langtry[6] is in Town and on Sunday came to breakfast - great success - there were fourteen of us in all! - I am to begin her portrait on Thursday - an arrangement in yellow[7] - You will be pleased to hear that H. R. H.[8] smoked a cigar in the Studio this afternoon - the 'Royal Boy' was of course most charming - and I presented Ellwell[9]! - Generally larks in short! - Perhaps next week, if the sun will only come out, I may go for the rest of the month to the seaside - and paint some of the things Willie proposes - The Fine Art Society are going to have an exhibition of Sea pieces by Hook[10] & Bret[11], and others and I might do[12] [p. 3] beautifully among them - The World[13] reports strangely enough - that Mr Whistler having completed the first of the Series of Mrs Meux has "gone for his holiday to the sea side!" - I wonder how these things happen! -

I went up this afternoon to Wimpole Street - Lizzie[14] complains that the painters are awfully slow - the head man is to come to me tomorrow afternoon to see about the paint for the door - which by the way I think had better be of one red all throughout - The railings would also look nice red.

The portrait of Mother[15] is going to the Exhibition[16] in Philadelphia. I never saw it looking so well! - Goodbye - Love to both - You might write one line in return to say whether it is really warm in Jersey[17]? or more especially in Guernsey - Which is the warmer of the two -

Always affectionately

J McNeill Whistler

Tite Street

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1.  [September 1881?]
Dated from references to holidays and Philadelphia exhibition (see notes below).

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

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

4.  letters

5.  Mrs Meux
Lady Valerie Susan ('Susie') Meux (1847-1910), née Langdon, collector and patroness [more]. Lady Meux sat for several portraits in 1881-1882, including Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux (YMSM 228) and Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229).

6.  Mrs Langtry
Lillie Langtry (1853-1929), née Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, actress [more].

7.  arrangement in yellow
Arrangement in Yellow: Portrait of Lily Langtry (YMSM 227), which was never completed and may indeed never have been properly started.

8.  H. R. H.
Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg (1841-1910), H.R.H. The Prince of Wales [more].

9.  Ellwell
Probably a misspelling of D. Jerome Elwell (1847-1912), landscape and marine painter [more].

10.  Hook
James Clarke Hook (1819-1907), marine painter, etcher and illustrator. [more].

11.  Bret
John Brett (1830-1902), painter of coastal scenes and landscapes [more].

12.  I might do
JW may have thought that the austere quality of his seascapes would contrast well with the geological detail and accuracy of Brett's style. The exhibition is unidentified.

13.  World
The World, A Journal for Men and Women, was a London based society paper.

14.  Wimpole Street - Lizzie
Lizzie (b. ca 1853), possibly a servant of H. and W. McN. Whistler. JW designed a decorative scheme for the Whistlers' house at 28 Wimpole Street; see JW to H. Whistler, #06695 and #07001.

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

16.  Exhibition
The portrait was shown at the Special Exhibition of Paintings by American Artists at Home and in Europe, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1881-1882. The exhibition opened on 7 November 1881.

17.  Jersey
JW painted seascapes in Jersey and Guernsey, including Blue Wave: Near the Casquet Rocks (YMSM 231) and Bleu et argent: La Mer, Jersey (YMSM 232a), probably in October 1881 (see JW to M. R. Elden, #12818). The whereabouts of these works is unknown. Way recorded that he painted 'several splendid oil-paintings, which I have never seen since; notably one of the vast deep blue wave, painted from the steamer near the Casquet rocks. I have a vivid recollection of the extraordinary liquidity and transparency of the water, so characteristic of the sea in those parts, all given seemingly in one great sweep of the brush.' See Way, Thomas Robert, Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912, p. 59.