The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: [Exposition], Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1873
Record 6 of 8

System Number: 07887
Date: [27 April 1873?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Henry Cole[2]
Place: London
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 1/18/1
Document Type: ALS[3]

2 Lindsey Houses
Chelsea -

My dear Mr. Cole.

I am quite distressed that you should have had so long to wait for my work, which I am most anxious to deliver to you -

The case however stands simply this way - When I first wrote to your son[4], I expected to complete the Japanese "Gold Girl"[5] within a very few days. Almost immediately upon that letter my model[6] broke down from over work - and has been incapable until today - The work itself has become much more important as I have gone on with it, and I desire that you should have it in it's completeness and of my best capacity -

It has been impossible for me [p. 2] to push this more rapidly, and my pressing engagements from early date have hitherto interfered - Tomorrow evening I believe that the traced cartoon[7] will be ready for photographing and enlarging upon the big canvass - and if you will have it sent for and put at once in hand, I will myself attend and assist all the next day - when by Monday night it will be doubtless ready for hanging -

On Monday night I am imperatively obliged to leave for Paris[8] on business - and return on Tuesday the 29th. So that if it be impossible to work at the photographing on Sunday next, I can only say that you shall have the cartoon and canvass on the Monday - and my pupils[9] shall work upon it during my absence, and I engage [p. 3] myself to return it to you colored and ready to hang on the 1st. of May -

Believe me
Very faithfully yours

J A McN. Whistler

Henry Cole Esq. C. B.-

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  27 April 1873?
According to A. S. Cole's memorandum, 'ca. April 1873.' Internal references to 'Tuesday the 29th' and other details, however, place the letter on or near Sunday 27 April 1873; see also the note about the model's illness below. This letter was incorrectly dated 29 April 1872 in MacDonald, Margaret F., 'Whistler: The Painting of the 'Mother',' Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXXXV, February 1975, pp. 73-78, p. 87, n.19, and as 'April 1873' in Gold Girl (M.461).

2.  Henry Cole
Sir Henry ('King') Cole (1808-1882), civil servant and museum director [more].

3.  ALS
Published in the catalogue entry on Gold Girl (M.461). Partially published in Grasberger, cat. no. 31, described as 3 pp, 12mo, for sale at $75.00.

4.  son
Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more]. He recorded going to Cheyne Walk with his father 'to see J's Gold Lady - which was not finished' on 26 January 1873 (#13132). He saw 'Symphony in Gold,' perhaps the same piece, on 9 February 1873.

5.  Japanese 'Gold Girl'
Gold Girl (M.461). On 22 March 1872 Sir Henry Cole invited JW to design two figures for the decoration of the South Kensington Museum (#05518).

6.  model
On 1 June [1872], Anna M. Whistler wrote to her sister Kate Palmer: 'he has many new pictures begun and when he can finish any one we shall have the needful income alas that his model should be ill just as he was interested upon finishing a beautiful painting which in the same way he was prevented doing last summer' (#09938).

7.  cartoon
The enlarged cartoon was supposed to measure 104" x 34", but no such design has been located. The one surviving cartoon by JW, Venus (M.357) was signed and dated 1867, and measures 46 15/16" x 24 3/16" so it can hardly have been the cartoon intended for South Kensington. It was pricked for transfer and photographed, but never completed. JW presumably intended to follow this established academic practice for his South Kensington commision but (as in 1869) did not complete it.

8.  Paris
This is the only reference to a visit to Paris. He may have intended to visit Durand Ruel's gallery, where several of his works were in [Exposition], Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1873.

9.  pupils
Walter Greaves (1846-1930), boatman and painter [more], and probably Henry Greaves (1843-1904), boat builder and painter [more].