The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 100th exhibition, Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1882
Record 8 of 9

System Number: 09547
Date: [June 1882][1]
Author: Oscar Wilde[2]
Place: [USA]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]

You dear good-for-nothing old Dry-point[4]! Why do you not write to me? Even an insult would be pleasant, and here I am lecturing[5] on you, see penny rag[6] enclosed, and rousing the rage of all the American artists by so doing. Of course the Salon[7] is a success [...] The little pink lady[8] [...] I remember so well, tell me about them. Also why "a wand[9]," as I see in the World; it sounds charming. And the Moon-Lady, the Grey Lady, the beautiful wraith with her beryl eyes, our Lady Archie[10], how is she? Also when will you come to Japan[11]? Fancy the book, I to write it, you to illustrate it. We would be rich.


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1.  [June 1882]
Dated by Hart-Davis (see below).

2.  Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more].

3.  PLc
Partial text published in sale catalogue, Maggs cat. 449, London, 1924, and in Hart-Davis, Rupert, ed., The Letters of Oscar Wilde, London, 1962, p. 121, and Holland, Merlin and Rupert Hart-Davis, eds, The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, London, 2000, pp. 173-4.

4.  Dry-point
A pun, meaning both witty sayings, and the method of drawing with the dry point of a needle on a copper plate to produce a burr of metal that holds ink, and prints as a fine, soft line.

5.  lecturing
This was written during Wilde's American lecture tour from January to October 1882. On his arrival in New York, he paid tribute to JW as 'the first painter in England.' See Ellmann, Richard, Oscar Wilde, London, 1987, p. 153].

6.  penny rag
Wilde's lecture tour received extensive coverage in the press.

7.  Salon
A reference to the 100th exhibition, Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1882, which opened on 1 May. JW's exhibits included Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux (YMSM 228) and etchings from Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5).

8.  pink lady
Possibly Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229), which was exhibited at the 6th Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1882 (cat. no. 48), although she is hardly 'little'.

9.  wand
On 3 May 1882, the World noted: 'Mr Whistler's wand-like walking stick was one of the most striking objects at the private view of the Grosvenor Gallery. It was longer than himself, and even slimmer, and he balanced it delicately between finger and thumb. He explained that he intended that it should become historical and its appearance doubtless marks a new departure in the fashion of sticks.' (quoted in Holland, 2000, op. cit., p. 174).

10.  Lady Archie
Janey Sevilla Campbell (ca 1846 - d.1923), née Callander, Lady Archibald Campbell [more]. JW's portraits of Lady Archie included The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 241), now destroyed.

11.  Japan
A few years previously JW had illustrated Thompson, Sir Henry, A Catalogue of Blue and White Nankin Porcelain Forming the Collection of Sir Henry Thompson. Illustrated ... from Drawings by James Whistler ... and Sir Henry Thompson, London, 1878. Neither Wilde nor JW ever went to Japan although they were enthusiastic collectors and promoters of oriental art.