The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 5th Exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1895
Record 2 of 13

System Number: 03724
Date: 20 September 1895
Author: Stanford White[1]
Place: New York
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M58
Document Type: TLS


September 20, 1895.

Dear Mr Whistler[2]

I went with Sargent[3] to see the Peacock Room[4], and although only a dozen square feet were uncovered for us, it is needless to say how delighted I was with it. The house is now in the hands of the Philistines, and is being gutted and torn down preparatory to furbishing up in the latest modern style. It was as much as our lives were worth to get into the Peacock Room, and when we did get in there, it was all carefully covered up with pasted tissue paper. Of course, the whole room is the thing I should have seen; at the same time, the glimpse I had of the actual work, in conjunction with the photographs, was quite enough for me to dilate upon, and as soon as Her Royal Highness[5], who thinks that the room is a menace to her own personality, returns to London, Sargent is to let me know what conditions surround its sale, and then I will pitch in. The great difficulty, of course, about placing the room in anything but a new house in which the room is built exactly to fit, would be, to find one approximating it in size, and especially in height, as our houses here are built with lower ceilings. At the same time, it would be perfectly possible (so long as the main features were kept intact) to do a great deal of adaptation.

Before it was covered by your own splendid work, it seems to me that the room must have been one of the most damnably ugly and hideous rooms ever concocted.

I was in London but three days, and, of course, my shirt sleeve, which had the address of your "Sarasate[6]" portrait, went to the "wash up". I finally located it - I mean the portrait, not the shirt - but only at an hour when the Sun was sinking in the horizon and the gallery[7] locked up.

I am more and more regretting that I went away from Paris without again seeing the lovely thing that you are doing from Carmen[8] for Freer[9], and also that I did not see the little head you did of Carmen, which you spoke of, and which MacMonnies[10] says is a diamond of the purest water. Will you send us over one or two portraits for the Portrait Exhibition in November? that is, send them over in a tin lined case, insured up to Z., and I will promise you that they will be returned intact the moment the exhibition is over, so that you can exhibit them on the other side.

McKim[11] is ready for war to the knife on the Public Library business, but is lying low just at present until certain [p. 2][12] matters get straightened out. I beg you not to desert us, and promise that, as soon as the rumpus commences, there will be a song and dance around the Philistines on the Board of Trustees, which will make them sorry they ever tried any such "funny" business.

Dewing[13] is over here, as happy as a clam at high tide.

The pleasantest recollection I carried back with me of my trip is the evening you spent with us in Paris.

sincerely[14] Yrs

Stanford White

James McNeil [sic] Whistler [Esq?]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Stanford White
Stanford White (1853-1906), architect [more].

2.  Dear Mr Whistler
This line is written by hand.

3.  Sargent
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), artist [more].

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

5.  Her Royal Highness
Blanche Marie Georgiana Watney (1837?-1915), of the brewing family [more].

6.  Sarasate
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (YMSM 315).

7.  gallery
The Grafton Gallery.

8.  Carmen
Carmen Rossi, model, proprietess of the Académie Carmen [more], posed for Crimson note: Carmen (YMSM 441) at this time, and it was exhibited at 5th Exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1895.

9.  Freer
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), industrialist, collector and founder of the Freer Gallery of Art [more].

10.  MacMonnies
Frederick William MacMonnies (1863-1937), sculptor [more].

11.  McKim
Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909), architect, of McKim, Mead and White, New York [more]. They had hoped that JW would decorate a panel in Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library, but he did not produce a design in time and the trustees of the library cancelled the proposal (see Study for Three Decorative Panels Representing 'The Landing of Columbus', 'Queen Isabel la Católica of Spain' and 'Queen Elizabeth of England' (YMSM 396)).

12.  [p. 2]
The printed letterhead appears at the top of this page, as on p.1 .

13.  Dewing
Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938), artist [more].

14.  sincerely
The remainder of the letter is handwritten.