The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1885-1886
Record 9 of 14

System Number: 05267
Date: [1885/1886?][1]
Author: John Burr[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R163
Document Type: PLS[3]



That the Society was established in the year 1823 under the patronage of H. R. H. the late Duke of Sussex[4], by several of the most eminent Artists of the day, who were not at that time Members of the Royal Academy, amongst whom were the late Clarkson Stanfield, R. A.[5], David Roberts, R. A.[6]

That the Society was incorporated by Royal Charter dated the 3rd day of February, 1847, in response to the accompanying memorial (to which the Society begs earnestly to call your attention) for the following reasons therein mentioned.

"That the persons who have been and now are Members of the said Society have devoted much care, diligence, labour, and perseverance, and at their own private cost and charge have incurred and expended considerable sums of money in the establishment and support of the said Institution."

That by a reference to the Catalogues of the Society's Exhibitions, it will be seen that most modern Artists of eminence have first exhibited in the Exhibitions of the Society.

That in the present Exhibition[7] which contains fewer works than usual, there are 773 works of which only 156 are by Members who bear solely the responsibility of providing for the carrying on of the Exhibitions, leaving 617 works by persons who have no responsibility whatever.

That the yearly increase in the number of Students in the Government and other Schools of Art throughout the Kingdom, requires that such Exhibitions as those of the Society of British Artists should be continued, so that the early works of those Students may be fairly placed before the public, ensuring that that encouragement which fosters and developes [sic] genius may not be withheld.

That it is the desire of the Society that the advantages which young and unknown Artists have derived from the Exhibitions during the last sixty years shall be continued, but the high rent, and other necessary expenses (amounting to £1800 a year) cripple its efforts and render its very existence precarious.

[p. 2] That the Royal Charter by which the Society is incorporated, secures that the Members cannot receive any pecuniary benefit, and that any gift or benefaction it may receive shall be applied to the benefit of Art, without the possibility of its diversion from the uses and purposes for which the Charter was granted.

That at the present time an opportunity occurs of purchasing the Galleries on very favourable terms. The remainder of the Crown Lease (38 years from this date) which was sold in 1878 for £12,000 is now offered to the Society for £8700, but without extraneous assistance it will be impossible for the Society to avail itself of this offer. Anxious to continue the duty to the public whieh [sic] it has hitherto performed, the Society, believing that you would be amongst the first to assist in aiding them in their endeavour to encourage and advance Art, pray that you will be pleased to grant such assistance, by donation, as in your judgment the purpose it has at heart may deserve.

And your Petitioners will ever pray, &c.

John Burr President

Thos Roberts[8] - Secretary

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [1885/1886?]
This dates from Burr's Presidency of the Society of British Artists (SBA).

2.  John Burr
John P. Burr (1831-1893), genre painter [more]. He resigned from the SBA in 1886. This document was referred to by JW when constructing a Memorial to Queen Victoria in 1887 (see #05971).

3.  PLS
The whole of this document is printed, except for the signatures which are written by hand.

4.  Duke of Sussex
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), the sixth son of George III [more].

5.  Clarkson Stanfield, R.A.
William Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867), marine painter [more].

6.  David Roberts, R. A.
David Roberts (1796-1864), scenographer and painter [more].

7.  present Exhibition
Not identified; possibly Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1885-1886.

8.  Thos Roberts
Thomas Edward Roberts (1820-1902), painter and engraver [more]. He may well have passed this document to JW.