The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880
Record 11 of 15

System Number: 11621
Date: [21 March 1881][1]
Author: Maud Franklin[2]
Place: London
Recipient: Otto Henry Bacher[3]
Place: Florence
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 177a
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALS


Dear Mr Bacher

What you can think of Whistler by this time I dont know - something very dreadfull [sic] he is afraid - so he is getting me to make excuses for him, & promises to put a line or two[4] at the bottom of this by way of apology -

Well I can only say he has been frightfully occupied every day & hour since he came home in bringing out the [p. 2] Etchings & Pastels[5] - the Etchings of course were exhibited first & were a great success - I daresay you have seen some accounts of them - most of the papers spoke in the highest possible terms of them and everything was as great a triumph as even Jimmy could wish - but of course all the other artists were furious.

As to the Pastels, well - they are the Fashion - There has never been such a success known - Whistler has decorated a room for them - an arrangement in brown gold & Venetian Red which is very lovely - Ant [sic] in it they look perfect gems - .

[p. 3] All the London World was at the private view[6] - Princesses Painters Beauties Actors - everybody - in fact at one moment of the day it was impossible to move - for the room was crammed -

Even Whistlers enemies were obliged to acknowledge their loveliness - the criticisms are one & all high in their praise[.]

One of them published the story of Wolkoff[7] the Russian imitator - & said he was obliged to take a course of mud baths after his defeat -

Altogether it has been a great lark - & Whistler has often said wouldnt "the Boys"[8] appreciate [p. 4] the fun of all this"?

I am going to send you a little book of all the cuttings of the newspapers[9] so that you can see for yourself. -

The best of it is all the pastels are selling - Four hundred pound[s'] worth went the first day now over a thousand pounds worth are sold - the prices range from 20 to 60 guineas - and nobody grumbles at paying that for them - Whistler bought me a dress like this scrap I have pinned above - to wear at the Private View - but the day was too dreadfull [sic] - or it would have been very lovely in that room.

And now how are you getting [p. 5] on? Very successfully I hope[.] We have not forgotten any of you - if we have'nt written - we were both laid up directly we got home. I have been under the doctors hands ever since with a shocking cough.

If you should see the elder Mr Storey[10] - please say, Whistler & I are both very disappointed at getting no reply to my letter

We both wish to be very kindly remembered to Mr Corwen[11] - Mr Duveneck - Mr de Camp - Mr Hopkins - Mr Rosenberg - Mr Wendell [sic] - Mr Turner - Mr Pennington [p. 6] Mr Mills[12] - Mr Freeman - Mr Anderson - in short everybody yourself included

I do so wish we could come down to Florence[13] & see you all again - I should like it above all things for this London winter is killing me

We had some pleasant times in Venice when we were all there had'nt we? We did not stay long after you left.

The dog Ciou[14] has got such a beautifull [sic] creature not very large - but too funny for anything - he has become quite famous from [p. 7] always being seen with Jimmy

Now we shall expect to hear from you[.] a letter addressed 28 Wimpole St [15]Cavendish Sq - will always find Jimmy - where ever we may be - meanwhile if you can find time & feel so disposed send us a line to the address below.

With kindest regards and best wishes from both
Believe me dear Mr Bacher
Yours very Sincerely

Maud Whistler

Mr or Mrs Whistler[16]
76 Alderney St
Warwick Square

This document is protected by copyright.


Signor. Otto. Bacher
7 bis Lungo il Mugnone[17]
No 2[18]
[verso: sketch of an unknown object]
'S Maria Nuova'
[stamp:] POSTAGE / TWO PENCE / HALFPENNY / 2 1/2d
[postmark:] [COURTON/CHARTON] ST S. W. / 2X / MR 25 / 81
[postmark on verso:] FIRENZE / 26 / 3 / 6M


1.  [21 March 1881]
Dated from the postmark and almanac, 21 March 1881 being a Monday.

2.  Maud Franklin
Mary Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), JW's model and mistress [more]. Although she signs herself 'Maud Whistler' they were not married.

3.  Otto Henry Bacher
Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), book illustrator and etcher [more].

4.  line or two
Instead of the 'line or two,' JW wrote an apologetic letter to Bacher, continuing after the signature of Maud's letter (see JW to O. H. Bacher, #11622).

5.  Etchings and Pastels
JW had recently had exhibitions of his Venice work - Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880, and Venice Pastels, The Fine Art Society, London, 1881.

6.  Private View
The Private View of JW's pastels exhibition took place on 29 January 1881.

7.  Wolkoff
Alexandre Nicolaievitch Roussoff or Volkoff-Muromsoff (1844-1928), genre and landscape painter, watercolourist [more], who met JW in Venice. Bacher relates a story that one evening in a Venice restaurant, Wolkoff ridiculed JW's pastels although they had been praised by an American admirer. Wolkoff bet that 'he could make half a dozen pastels as good as Whistler's and, if they were mixed with his, nobody could tell them apart.' Unbeknownst to JW, the bet was taken up by the American and a jury successfully judged the work of the two men apart, shouting, according to Bacher, 'Take it away' whenever one of Wolkoff's appeared. For the complete story see Bacher, Otto Henry, 'With Whistler in Venice 1880 – 86,' The Century Magazine, December 1906, pp. 201-5.

8.  the Boys
When he was in Venice from 1879-80, JW met Bacher and 'the Boys,' a circle of American art students studying with Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

9.  newspapers
Reviews included 'Mr Whistler's etchings of Venice,' The Times, London, 25 December 1880, p. 4, and Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Pastels,' The Athenaeum, no. 2780. 5 February 1881, p. 206.

10.  Mr Storey
George Adolphus Storey (1834-1919), portrait and genre painter [more].

11.  Corwen ... Pennington
Charles Abel Corwin (1857-1938), artist [more]; Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more]; Joseph-Rodefer DeCamp (1858-1923), portrait and figure painter [more]; George Edward Hopkins (1855- after 1923), artist and printmaker [more]; Henry Mortimer Rosenberg (1858-1947), artist and printmaker [more]; Theodore M. Wendel (1859-1932), painter and printmaker [more]; Ross Sterling Turner (1847-1915), artist [more] and Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854-1920), artist [more].

12.  Mr Mills ... Anderson
Charles E. Mills (1856-1956), painter, printmaker and muralist [more]; Charles H. Freeman (1859-1918), genre painter [more], and possibly Abraham Archibald Anderson (1847-1940), painter.

13.  Florence
Duveneck and his students moved their school to Florence during the winter months.

14.  ciou
'Ciaou' (pronounced 'chow') is the familiar Italian greeting, used by JW as the name for his dog, a chow. He brought it back from Venice, and kept it until it misbehaved too much, and 'disappeared' (see Three sketches of the artist's dog (M.829)).

15.  28 Wimpole St
The address of William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

16.  Mrs Whistler
Maud Franklin's was not in fact married to JW, then or later.

17.  mugnone
The painting studios of the Duveneck 'Boys' were located in the Palazzo Mugnone on the Arno.

18.  No 2
Triple underlined.