The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1872
Record 10 of 17

System Number: 09022
Date: [March 1873][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Alan Summerly Cole[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: TLc[3]

2 Lindsey Houses - Chelsea

Now my dear Allen [sic]

This is what's the matter with me! Your Gold Girl[4] is all right - you have seen her well under way and in full swing. She is as safe as the Bank and you shall have the large one coloured[5] and finished quite as soon as you are really ready for her - But do not run me in with her - You have seen the awful darkness[6] that settled upon us last week - well the only available day I was obliged to give Mr. Huth[7] for the one and only sitting for his wife[8] as I had promised before the Academy - you were by and heard the promise - Besides, you want to borrow his two pictures[9] and so we must be on good terms with him -

However, that is now satisfactorily accomplished so far. And now I am forced to push on my Academy pictures[10] for which every moment is precious. They will be done all right and are going on splendidly - You stand by me now and I will stand by you - and the Japanese painter of the Sun[11] shall be of my most superb. But as old Abe Lincoln[12] said 'the middle of a river is no place to swap horses' and I am there just now. Wait till I get to the other bank. Practically what I mean is this. It will take me one day and a half to finish perfectly the small Gold Girl - and two days to colour the large one you send me, photographed[13] i. e. enlarged - Now you do not need the large finished work until the middle of April - and my pictures must go to the Academy on the 1st, so you are all safe - Say this to your father[14] from me and say that I bind myself to the accomplishment of this thing - moreover I have set my heart on having it in your halls in a state of perfection for exhibition - so that I take quite as much pride in it and am as anxious about it as you can be - Dont fancy that I am not alive to its importance to me, or that I intend to shirk it for other matters - Only how swell to have my others in the Academy and my Symphony in Gold at the Kensington Museum at the same time! - and if you will leave it to me and have faith it will be!

Come on Sunday by all means, only come at about 3 or half past - there is plenty of light and I will show you my three Girls[15] - "SYMPHONY IN WHITE AND RED - full palette"! - Bring your friend Mitford[16] with you - I shall be pleased to know him. I say what a letter!

Now, my dear Allan, I see you have let loose Redgrave[17] again! and he has got snagged on the Academy Committee! Bon Dieu! How could you neglect my interests thus!

Au revoir - On Sunday -


This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [March 1873]
Dated from references to the International Exhibition, South Kensington Museum, London, 1873, and to the opening of the Royal Academy in April 1873.

2.  Alan Summerly Cole
Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more].

3.  TLc
The original has not been located, but was described as 'Autograph Letter Signed, 6 1/2 pp. 12mo' for sale at $150.00 (sale catalogue, Grasberger, n. d. [1926?], (cat. no. 21). The letter was published by Grasberger, with the omission of half the second paragraph and the valediction. A full typescript transcription, with minor variations in spelling and punctuation throughout, is in PWC.

4.  Gold Girl
Gold Girl (M.461). JW made numerous drawings for a mosaic of 'a Japanese art worker' for a mosaic for South Kensington Museum (see #05518). Cole described going with his father to see 'J's Gold Lady - which was not finished' in JW's studio on 26 January 1873 (Diary, #13132).

5.  large one colored
JW's sketch (referred to later in the letter as ' the small Gold Girl') was intended to form the basis for an enlarged cartoon, which would in its turn be transferred to canvas. The sole surviving enlarged cartoon by JW, Venus (M.357), dated 1869, is in black and white. No large coloured cartoon or painting has survived.

6.  darkness
Some personal loss appears to have happened to JW, family or close friends early in 1873.

7.  Huth
Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more].

8.  wife
Helen Rose Huth (1837-1924), née Ogilvy, wife of the collector Louis Huth [more]. Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth (YMSM 125) was eventually exhibited at Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874.

9.  his two pictures
Huth owned Symphony in White, No. 3 (YMSM 61). It is not known exactly when he actually received it, but it was certainly exhibited at the 6th Exhibition, Society of French Artists, London, 1873. In 31 January 1873 JW offered Huth Venus Rising from the Sea (YMSM 93), and, on 1 February, Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105). Huth bought the latter and it was then exhibited at the 7th Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery, London, 1873 (see #02242).

10.  Academy pictures
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101) had been nearly rejected but eventually hung at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1872. It has generally been considered that this experience made JW reluctant to exhibit at the Royal Academy. This letter shows that he intended to exhibit in 1873, although in the event, he never exhibited paintings there again.

11.  Japanese painter of the Sun
In several drawings, such as r.: A Japanese Woman; v.: Girl with parasol (M.458), and A Chinese lady with a parasol (M.459), the model held a parasol, which may be a symbol of the sun. In Japanese lady decorating a fan (M.460) she held a half-opened fan, which could serve as a similar symbol. A painting showing a similar subject, of a woman with a parasol, was included in the [Exhibition], Mr White's North British Galleries, Glasgow, 1879, as Harmony in Blue and Gold (YMSM 197). However, it has now disappeared and it is not known if it was intended for Cole.

12.  Abe Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U. S. President [more].

13.  photographed
The section: 'photographed i. e. ... it will be', was omitted by Grasberger and has been transcribed from the typescript in PWC. The sole surviving enlarged cartoon by JW is Venus (M.357), which was dated '1869', was also photographed. This does not prove that Venus (M.357) was the cartoon under discussion in 1873. The actual cartoon has not survived nor have any larger scale paintings been identified. JW returned to the subject in the 1890s, when all hope of satisfying the Trustees of the Museum had ended, with several elaborate drawings, such as Design for a Mosaic (M.1226) and The Japanese Dress (M.1227). The gorgeous colour of these pastels may indicate what he had hoped to achieve for Cole.

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

15.  three Girls
The White Symphony: Three Girls (YMSM 87) was first exhibited at Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874. It was a sketch for The Three Girls (YMSM 88), which was commissioned by F. R. Leyland, but never completed. The transcript of this letter in GUL reads: '"Symphony in White and Red - full palette"!'

16.  Mitford
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837-1916), Lord Redesdale (1886), diplomat, Secretary of the Office of Works, and collector [more].

17.  Redgrave
Richard Redgrave (1804-1888), genre painter, water-colourist and etcher [more]. He was, with Alan's father, Sir Henry Cole, one of the founders of the South Kensington Museums.