The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 9th Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery, London, 1875
Record 1 of 14

System Number: 11496
Date: [14 November/December 1871][1]
Author: JW
Place: Liverpool
Recipient: Walter Greaves[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 9/645-6
Document Type: TLc

['F. R. L.[3]']


Dear Walter -

I have been away for a few days at the seaside, and so your letter[5] and the Times[6] you sent me came during my absence - or I would have thanked you before - The sea I thought I would go and look at as a sort of change - not only for me but for my palette also as I hoped to be able to find some grand greys and great masses of waves that I might spread over a couple of small canvasses with the true waterman's jerk, and send up for you both to hang and put in the patern [sic] when the frames which poor Fox[7] would be unable to make should have come from Foord & Dickinson[8] - However, it all fell through - for the weather was simply blank! - The sky - I never saw it so stupid - and as to the sea - it was nowhere at all! - it had simply gone off altogether - really I went to the seaside and I found no sea! - The way of it was that the beach being as flat and as level as a waxed floor, whenever the tide went down the sea went straight out of sight! - Without exaggeration this was so - and now it happened that not only was high tide at about four and five in dull afternoons when there [was] barely light enough to look for it, but even then these tides were the lowest during the whole year - and the wind blowing from the land the whole affair was as flat and stupid as the sky above muggy and shapeless - Waves there were none of course and so after waiting three or four days I came away disgusted and have returned to my work[9] which is getting on pretty jollily and for which I feel fresher naturally -

I am very glad you and Harry[10] have been to the Dudley[11] - and that the two "harmonies"[12] look swell among the crowd - Have they managed to fit in the little gold flat[13] you know that Clay[14] took down to the Gallery and that they wouldn't let him put in the frame, but fixed it in themselves? Does it look all right? They have not taken off too much of the butterfly have they? In your next tell me a little more about it - and also of what happened on the visit to the studio.

This must go now so with many thanks and kindest regards to all -
Ever yours sincerely

J. A. McN. Whistler.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [14 November/December 1871]
After 14 November 1871. Dated from address, Times review and reference to Dudley Gallery exhibition (see notes below).

2.  Walter Greaves
Walter Greaves (1846-1930), boatman and painter [more].

3.  F. R. L.
A note by the Pennells on this typescript copy states that the monogram of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more] appeared on the original paper.

JW was staying at Speke Hall with Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), shipowner, his wife Frances, and their children Frederick Dawson, Fanny, Florence and Elinor .

5.  letter
Letter untraced.

6.  Times
Probably with an article by Tom Taylor, 'Dudley Gallery - Cabinet Pictures in Oil,' The Times, 14 November 1871, p. 4, in which the writer extensively interpreted JW's two works in the Dudley Gallery exhibition (YMSM 103, 104 - see note below).

7.  Fox
Probably Frederick Fox, frame-maker and decorator [more].

8.  Foord & Dickinson
A London firm of picture frame makers, located at 129 Wardour Street.

9.  work
JW had been commissioned by F. R. Leyland to paint his family. He started work on Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106) in November 1871 whilst at Speke.

10.  Harry
Henry Greaves (1843-1904), boat builder and painter [more].

11.  Dudley
The Dudley Gallery at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly. The Gallery held three exhibitions a year, including an exhibition of cabinet pictures in oil from November to December each year. JW exhibited there in 1871-73 and in 1875.

12.  harmonies
Probably Variations in Violet and Green (YMSM 104) (cat. no. 225) and Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea (YMSM 103). The latter was exhibited as 'Harmony in Blue-green' (cat. no. 265).

13.  gold flat
Perhaps a reference to the inner-most part of the frame which JW seems to have feared might cut out part of his butterfly cartouche signature. The Times review (see note above) noted the effect of colour and frame: 'The colour, consistently with the theory of the painter, is carried out into the frames by means of delicate diaperings and ripplings of faint greens and moony blues on their gold and the Japanese influence in which the painter delights is carried even to the introduction of the coloured cartouche, which on Japanese screens bears the address of the painter or seller.'

14.  Clay
Clay, possibly a servant.