The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: World's Columbian Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1893
Record 5 of 113

System Number: 09677
Date: 1 May 1892
Author: Beatrix Whistler[1]
Place: Paris
Recipient: Edward Guthrie Kennedy[2]
Place: [New York]
Repository: New York Public Library
Call Number: E. G. Kennedy I/12-13
Credit Line: Edward Guthrie Kennedy Papers / Manuscripts and Archives Division / The New York Public Library / Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Document Type: ALS


LE May 1- 1892.

Dear Mr Kennedy,

We are still here, you see, and are likely to be here a good deal in the future, as Mr Whistler has taken a studio[3] - We want very much to know when you are coming to Europe - We shall expect to see you - and hear all the news.

I think I told you in my last letter Mr Whistler was going to have a collection of his pictures exhibited at Goupils[4] - Well, It was simply a "howling success." It was visited by more than 10000 people, (p. 2) during the three weeks it remained open. Whistler is now an Englishman, according to the papers, and the majority of them say he is the greatest painter England has!!! What do you think of that - Of Course, they were all more or less furious over the catalogue. The Critic of the Speaker[5] says - "Mr Whistler has not forgotten to reproduce the absolutely insane nonsense which Mr Burne-Jones[6], Mr Frith[7], and the Art Critic of the Times (presumably our scalped Arry[8]) talked about these pictures, These "critical opinions[9]" have caused much irritation in artistic circles, and many would willingly see the gentlemen in question crucified - On this point, however, I take a different view.

I hold that the occasion of calmly contemplating their own stupidity, which Mr Whistler has afforded these gentlemen is sufficient punishment, and that if they were all interviewed on the subjects of the catalogue I believe (p. 3) that the ends of justice would be sufficiently met.

I am sending you a copy of the Catalogue which ran through five editions -

We have had two or three American cuttings sent us - Our old friend the "Critic[10]" (who is it by the way) and the American Architect[11], who appears to have taken a little bit out of each article - the result being a most ridiculous muddle.

There is no doubt about it[.] The tone of the whole press has changed since the picture of the Mother[12] was bought by the French Government - Whistler has become the fashion - and yet the pictures are just the same pictures - !!!

(p. 4) Now - Mr Whistler wants to know if you are going to be in London for the Leyland[13] Sale. In the Art Journal for this month is an article on the collection, written by Leyland's son in law[14], and although a slight mention is made of the Peacock room, no mention is made of the beautiful portrait[15] of a lady in a Japanese dress which hangs in it - now - why don't you try for this picture Mr Whistler says - It is most brilliant in colour - and it would be sure to have a tremendous success in America - You might send it to Chicago - And, why not try for the Peacock room[16] - it could all be taken (p. 5) down, with care - About Mr Whistler sending to Chicago[17] I am afraid there will be some difficulty - as the owners refuse to lend their pictures any more!

About the Exhibition you speak of - we must see how things year happen this summer - Several people want their portraits, which I am afraid will interfere with our going away - unless we can put them off to the winter -

Mr Whistler hopes to have some etchings for you soon, (p. 6) he has found some wonderful things here - but the wind is always in the North East, which makes it impossible to stand much about in it with safety.

We have heard that several people are buying up Whistler etchings here - They think, I suppose, they are going to sell their proofs for £81.-5 'like' the first proof of the Kitchen[18] which was sold at Sothebys a few weeks back -

The colored Lithographs[19] are not yet out - but when they are we will send them to you -

Apropos of the Hitchcock[20] (p. 7), but this is quite entre nous You will remember he had arranged a year ago to have an exhibition of his paintings this May. Well - it seems he was furious when he found Mr Whistlers Exhibition had come off before his - He said if he had known there was to have been an Exhibition he would have given up his date, and have had his first - But as his Exhibition had been arranged for a year ahead, and we knew nothing whatever about, I cannot see what he has got to be cross about

However, it is not coming off!!! I believe they are in (p. 8) London -

Let us know if you are coming soon -

And with our kindest regards -
Believe me
Very sincerely yours

Beatrix Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Beatrix Whistler
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more]. Her letter is written in purple ink.

2.  Edward Guthrie Kennedy
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more].

3.  studio
JW signed a lease for the studio, 86 rue Notre Dame des Champs, a few days later on 4 May (##02706).

4.  Goupils
JW's exhibition, Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces, Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892.

5.  Speaker
London newspaper; the reference is unidentified.

6.  Mr Burne-Jones
Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898), painter and designer [more].

7.  Mr Frith
William Powell Frith (1819-1909), genre and landscape painter [more].

8.  Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more]. BW was mistaken; Quilter was only critic of the Times from 1880-81. The more likely critic was Thomas ('Tom') Taylor (1817-1880), civil servant, dramatist, art critic, and editor of Punch from 1874-1880 [more]. Taylor was Quilter's predecessor and art critic for the Times for over twenty years.

9.  'critical opinions'
She is referring to the catalogue to the Goupil exhibition, reproduced in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1892, pp. 297-331.

10.  Critic
Not located.

11.  American Architect
Not identified.

12.  Mother
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

13.  Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]. The auction was at Christie's, London, 28 May 1892.

14.  son in law
Prinsep, Val, 'The Private Art Collections of London. The Late Mr Frederick Leyland's [Collection] in Prince's Gate. First Paper - Rossetti and his Friend,' The Art Journal, new series, no. 647, May 1892, pp 129-134.

15.  portrait
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50).

16.  Peacock room
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178).

17.  Chicago
World's Columbian Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1893.

18.  Kitchen
The Kitchen (K.24a) or The Kitchen (K.24b).

19.  Lithographs
Probably Figure Study in Colors (C.39) and Draped Figure, Reclining (C.56). Two further colour lithographs date from the following year: Red House, Paimpol (C.66), Yellow House, Lannion (C.67).

20.  Hitchcock
George Hitchcock (1850-1913), painter and illustrator [more].