The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Document associated with: 75th Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 1901
Record 1 of 1

System Number: 00740
Date: 12 February 1901
Author: John James Cowan[1]
Place: Edinburgh
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C241
Document Type: ALS

38 W. Register Street

12 Feb. 01

My dear Whistler,

I have lent your Chelsea Nocturne[2] and the Chelsea - Pink & Grey[3] (No. 27(?) in Catalogue) to the Royal Scottish Academy.

I don't think the critic[4] of the "Scotsman" our daily knows anything about pictures, but I daresay that is quite usual, and that you are accustomed to it.

The Nocturne is a real beauty, but it requires a good light, and often we have it very cloudy & dark [p. 2] here. I have been pleased and interested to see how members of my own family who began by actually abusing it, have come to like it as well as any picture I have!

The exhibition opens end of this week, and if I knew where you were I would let you know how it looks among the reds & yellows! I have also promised to lend "The Thames in Ice"[5] to the Glasgow International Exhibition which opens in May.

[p. 3] I have been thinking of parting with some of my pictures, as I find it takes a lot of money to run my large family, and mentioning it to Thomson[6], he began at once to "The Thames in Ice."

However I am glad to say I choked him off!

I have now 14 of your paintings & drawings[7].

I rather think it was 13 when we last met.

Some one told me for a fact that you had gone to Tangiers[8] but in Paris it is rumoured [p. 4] that you have recently been in Edinburgh and Glasgow! Surely you wouldn't come here without looking me up? My son is still in So. Africa[9] & as fit as anything. He is a stone up in weight. Has seen lots of fighting - quite as much as he wants to and is very keen to get home again!

Believe me
Yours very sincerely

J. J. Cowan

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1.  John James Cowan
John James Cowan (1846-1936), paper manufacturer and collector [more].

2.  Chelsea Nocturne
Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Chelsea Snow (YMSM 174), purchased by Cowan in 1898.

3.  Chelsea - Pink & Grey
Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105), purchased by Cowan in May 1899. The two pictures were exhibited at the 75th Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 1901.

4.  critic
The Scotsman, the Edinburgh daily newspaper.

5.  The Thames in Ice
The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) was exhibited at International Exhibition, Glasgow Art Galleries, Glasgow, 1901 (cat. no. 500).

6.  Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more]. Thomson had recently pursuaded Cowan to part with At the Piano (YMSM 24) for £2000 (see J. J. Cowan to R. Birnie Philip, #00733).

7.  your paintings & drawings
Recent purchases included Brown and Gold: Lillie 'In our Alley!' (YMSM 464). Cowan purchased the picture from JW in January 1899 (J. J. Cowan to JW, #00727).

8.  Tangier
In December 1900, JW left for the Mediterranean in search of sunshine and health. He stopped off in Gibraltar, Marseilles, Tangiers and Algiers and then settled for a few months in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica from January to April 1901.

9.  So. Africa
Cowan was alluding to the Boer War (1899-1902), a war fought between Britain and the two Boer (Afrikaner) republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The event was ignited by the South African President Paul Kruger's denial of political rights to non-nationals. The British pursuit of gold-mining interests in the Transvaal was also a factor.