The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Louisiana Purchase International Exposition, St Louis, 1904
Record 1 of 2

System Number: 07149
Date: 12 May 1902
Author: Edmund Henry Wuerpel[1]
Place: St Louis
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W1137
Document Type: ALS

[oval crest with head of Minerva:] SAINT LOUIS MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS / 1881



May 12th 1902

My dear Mr Whistler:-

I wish that I might really know whether these occasional reminders of my existence are a bore to you or not. I am frequently tempted to write to you but supress [sic] the desire for fear of making myself a nuisance to you.

I had a sort of forlorn hope that I might possibly be sent abroad by Mr Ives[2] for the St Louis Exposition of 1904 (for I see that they have finally decided on that year). But instead of that I shall in all probability have to stay here even more closely than I was confined before, for I have taken charge of the school[3] during Mr Ives connection with the Fair, & that means a greater amount of my own time taken away from me. I should have been more than thankful to have been sent abroad, as it would in all probability have given me the opportunity of seeing you, & of showing you some of the work I have been doing of late.

I really begin to think that I have made progress in the past few years. Every one tells me so, and Mr Kurtz[4], who after all sees a good deal & claims to know more, thinks my work ought to be known beyond the narrow limits of St. Louis & the Western States. I had a "one man" exhibition a few months ago, and if the attention of the Public can be counted as success, then I can claim a great deal of it. By a clever manipulation of the Social strings on the part of my wife[5], the show was made more or less of a "function" and the leading society people came to see the pictures. You can imagine how edifying it must have been. But it aroused the interest of the Press, and I got a good deal of free advertising - a thing unheard of in this liberal and intellectual community. What that may lead to it is hard to predict, but it cannot do me any harm.

In the meantime, whenever I have the chance, I peg away at my work with a great deal of disappointment & an occasional day of elation & pleasure. I believe that I know what I want to do, & although I have not yet "struck ore," I catch an occasional glimpse of the metal. If I can unearth just a little of it before I pull up stakes [p. 3][6] I shall be compensated. All that I need is an occasional guide post to show me the way, and that I have not had since I left Paris.

My work here at the school is very trying. If it did not mean bread & butter for my family I should have given it up long ago. In spite of my dislike for it, I seem to help the students for I am constantly asked for advice even by students who are not in my classes. But when one has three daughters to look after, it makes the problems of choosinging [sic] ones career, very much simpler.

Mr Ives is going abroad, I believe, in a month or so, in the interest of the St Louis Fair, & I trust that he will succeed in getting a good representative collection of your work. If any good is to result in this Exposition for St. Louis it will be in the direction of Art. We may have a permanent building left us and it is to be hoped that some of the pictures sent over will remain in the building through the liberality of the Exposition Company or other public spirited citizens. And it is sincerely to be hoped that some of your work will be acquired.

[p. 4] We have some pretty good Sweedish [sic] & Glasgow pictures here, & a few scattered examples of modern French and Dutch schools. But we are sadly in need of a more representative collection & the only interest I have in the Exposition is the hope that something will stay here for us.

I do not give up the hope of being in Paris or London some time in the future & I sincerely hope that when I do get over there I will have the good fortune to meet with you.

Please give my kindest regards to such of my friends as may still remember me,

& believe me, my dear Mr Whistler, as always
yours most cordially

Edmund H Wuerpel

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1.  Edmund Henry Wuerpel
Edmund Henry Wuerpel (1866-1958), artist and teacher [more].

2.  Mr Ives
Halsey Cooley Ives (1847-1911), painter [more].

3.  school
The St Louis School of Fine Arts where Wuerpel taught for many years.

4.  Mr Kurtz
Charles McMeen Kurtz (1855-1909), Director of Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and Assistant Chief, U. S. Fine Art Department, World's Columbian Exposition [more].

5.  my wife
Mrs E. H. Wuerpel, wife of the artist.

6.  [p. 3]
Although Wuerpel has numbered this sheet '2.', it is actually the third side of text.