The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to search results

Documents associated with: Second Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures, Corporation of Brighton, Royal Pavillion Gallery, Brighton, 1875
Record 2 of 6

System Number: 08052
Date: [20 August/4 September 1875][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Frances Leyland[2]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 2/16/4
Document Type: ALS

2 Lindsey Houses, Chelsea

My dear Mrs Leyland -

The delightful little holiday over I am hard at work and have but my souvenirs for myself and my grateful thanks for you - Of course I am up to my elbows in paint and only venture to think very little at a time of Speke Hall[3] - or at once the brush would be dropped for the dreamy cigarette - and you can fancy the ready ease with which I yield to pleasant temptation!

I hear your severe reprimand upon my weakness! [p. 2] but really [then?] I am behaving very well - I have sent two Nocturnes and the Princess to the Brighton Exhibition[4] - and the White Girl's[5] frame has not been neglected - I suppose that she will leave for her future home early this next week - Meanwhile I am painting on Leylands big picture[6] - having at last found a beautiful creature[7] to replace the "perfect woman[8]" - though I fear I shall never absolutely believe any other (model of course - "common people") her equal -

So Fanny[9] is off to Dundee! and by degrees the Hall will be without its guests - I suppose that possibly you will join Fanny later on -

By the way when may I have the proofs[10] of my groups - Notice the distinction - though I am quite prepared to hear that the photographs of the next Sunday were quite as good, if not better - and that my aid was not at all needed - 'certainly not'. You know Mrs Leyland that you did promise me the photographs - and I hope you will kindly send me one of each - Will you perhaps on [p. 3] Monday? - I go down to Hastings tonight to delight the Mother[11] - but return tomorrow evening.

The house here is looking its very best and I do wish you could see it - and another couple of Nocturnes[12] hang on the walls that even you would I think acknowledge to be beautiful - Ah well as usual here is the post going and I have said nothing of what I wanted to say - I have given you the faintest notion of my real happiness & enjoyment as your 'guest' and I have not in any way excused this long letter which was to carry my warmest thanks to my kind and charming hostess - My best love to Flo and the Babs[13] and kindest regards to[14] all,

Very sincerely yours,

J. A. McN. Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [20 August/4 September 1875]
This letter may have been written after JW received a letter from F.R. Leyland dated 19 August 1875 (see #02566), where he would have read that Fanny Leyland had gone with Mrs. Caird to Dundee in Scotland. It may also have been written around 4 September, the date of JW's letter to F.R. Leyland in which he also makes reference to having found a new model for 'the big picture' (see below).

2.  Frances Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].

3.  Speke Hall
Home of the Leylands, near Liverpool, where JW stayed January to March 1875.

4.  Brighton Exhibition
Second Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures, Corporation of Brighton, Royal Pavillion Gallery, Brighton, 1875. The preview was on Wednesday, 8 September 1875 (see JW to F. R. Leyland, #11866). JW exhibited four works including La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50), under the title Arrangement in flesh colour and grey - La Princesse des pays de la Porcelain (cat. no. 156), and Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76) as Nocturne in Blue and Silver, (cat. no. 158).

5.  White Girl's
Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38). The painting was originally purchased by George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more], in 1866 but after his death in December 1869, it passed to his widow. After her death on 25 September 1875, rights of ownership passed to her son, Thomas Delano Whistler (1857-1921), engineer, JW's nephew [more]. The frame may date from March 1862, although it was not decorated or signed until the autumn of 1875. Once JW had attended to it, the painting was sent to America.

6.  big picture
Probably The Three Girls (YMSM 88).

7.  creature
The model is unidentified; she was posing in the nude. See another reference to her in JW to F. R. Leyland, #11866: 'Now I have fallen upon such a grand piece of good fortune in the way of a model with whom I have made an arrangement to sit to me altogether - with a view to at once going on with the two big pictures - She is simply adorable and comes by the way on Monday morning for the three girls.'

8.  perfect woman
Possibly 'Tillie' Gilchrist, JW's model, who may have been Mrs Matilda Gilchrist (b. 1828 or 1829), mother of Connie Gilchrist [more].

9.  Fanny
Fanny Leyland (1857-1880), later Mrs Stevenson-Hamilton [more].

10.  proofs
No photographs taken at Speke have been located.

11.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more]. Mrs Whistler had been in Hastings since 8 August, having retired there for her health.

12.  Nocturnes
This may refer to Nocturnes dating from the early 1870s which are recorded as remaining unsold for some years in JW's studio such as Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights (YMSM 115) and Nocturne: Battersea (YMSM 120); or more recent ones, such as Cremorne, No. 1 (YMSM 163), Cremorne Gardens, No. 2 (YMSM 164) and Nocturne: Cremorne Gardens, No. 3 (YMSM 165). Nocturne: Black and Gold - The Fire Wheel (YMSM 169) and Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170) also may date from this time.

13.  Flo and the Babs
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more] and Elinor Leyland (1861-1952), later Mrs Speed [more].

14.  to
Remainder of text written on p. 1.