The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 8th Exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1898
Record 1 of 3

System Number: 07572
Date: [August/December 1872][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Rachel Agnes Alexander[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: British Museum, London
Call Number: Department of Prints and Drawings, 1925-2-8-22
Document Type: ALS[3]

2 Lindsey Houses -
Chelsea -

Sunday night.

Dear M[rs?] Alexander -

If you will not think me too capricious I wish that tomorrow you would bring the little fair daughter[4] instead of her elder sister[5].

The fact is as you kindly wished every thing to be, in this matter, according to my fancy, I feel no hesitation in saying I should work at the present moment, [ p. 2] with more freshness at this very "fair arrangement" I propose to myself, than at any other -

Ever Yours

J A. McN. Whistler

I shall expect you at about half past one tomorrow -

This document is protected by copyright.


'Mrs Alexander[6]
Aubrey House -'


1.  [August/December 1872]
Dated by references to Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129). It is not entirely clear from the tone of the letter if it pre-dates Cicely's first sittings, in which case it may date from before 26 August 1872 when JW wrote about the design of Cicely's dress (#07571). However, it may have overlapped with sittings for Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127) (see #06553, #00138).

2.  Rachel Agnes Alexander
Rachel Agnes Alexander (b. ca 1837, m. 1861), née Lucas, wife of W. C. Alexander [more]. The 'Mrs' is not entirely clear, and it is not certain that the envelope addressed to 'Mrs Alexander' actually goes with this letter. It is possible the letter was actually to William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), banker and patron [more].

3.  ALS
The original is bound into an album with other material connected with William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), banker and patron [more], and Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more], and their families. This letter was partially quoted in Colby, Reginald, 'Whistler's Controversial Masterpiece,' Country Life, CXXXII, 2 August 1962, pp. 260-61, pp. 260-1, and Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129).

4.  fair daughter
Cicely Henrietta Alexander (1864-1932), later Mrs Spring Rice [more]. The 'fair arrangement' became one of JW's finest and most famous portraits, Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129).

5.  elder sister
Agnes Mary Alexander (1862-1950), daughter of W. C. Alexander [more]. Sittings were later seriously interrupted by the sitter's ill-health, but JW did eventually complete the portrait, Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127), and returned it to Alexander after the 8th Exhibition, SPP, London, 1898.

6.  Mrs Alexander
The envelope is written in another hand. It is on the same page in the album as the letter above, and, being clearly addressed to Mrs Alexander, it has been assumed they go together.