The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 62nd Annual Exhibition, v, London, 1885
Record 7 of 12

System Number: 09294
Date: [27 May 1885][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Henry Irving[2]
Place: [London]
Call Number: [Published][3]
Document Type: PLc

My dear Irving,

I am greatly distressed at having been prevented at the last moment from seeing you again in your triumph[4] of this evening. I must come very soon - and also I want so much to talk to you. It is hopeless calling for I never find you - I have tried before now. Meanwhile do look in some afternoon directly at the "Society[5] of British Artists", Suffolk Street - and see my picture[6] of Sarasate - and let that show you what I meant your portrait[7] to be and then arrange with me for a day or two at my new studio.

It is ridiculous that Irving should not be painted - and who else shall paint him!


[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [27 May 1885]
After 27 May 1885 (see below, reference to the play Olivia). Also dated from references to the Society of British Artists, YMSM 187 and YMSM 315 (see also below).

2.  Henry Irving
John Henry Brodribb alias Henry Irving (1838-1905), actor, Director and manager of the Lyceum Theatre [more]. Irving owned Green and silver - Parc Monceau, Paris (M.1013).

3.  [Published]
Source of original unknown. Published in Irving, Lawrence, Henry Irving: the Actor and his World, London, [1951], p. 274 (with letter dated there as April 1876).

4.  triumph
Irving had returned to London from an American tour in mid April. This may be a reference to Olivia, an adaptation by William Gorman Wills (1828-1891), playwright and painter [more], of Goldsmith, Oliver, The Vicar of Wakefield, (1766). It opened on 27 May 1885 with Irving in the character of Dr Primrose and Ellen Terry (1847-1928), actress [more], as Margaret, and ran for one hundred and thirty-five performances.

5.  Society
62nd Annual Exhibition, SBA, London, 1885. Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more], attended a private view on 18 April (see diary entry, 18 April, #13132).

6.  picture
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (YMSM 315). Pablo de Sarasate y Navascues (1844-1908), violinist [more], was a celebrated musical figure in late nineteenth century Europe and first played in London in 1874. His portrait was exhibited at the Society (cat. no. 350) alongside seven other works including Note in Grey: Holland (YMSM 299) (cat. no. 234). See also related works including Sketch of 'Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate' (M.998), Sketch of 'Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate' (M.999), and Portrait of Pablo de Sarasate (M.1000).

7.  portrait
This could be Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain (YMSM 187), painted in 1876, but JW may have wished to work on a second portrait of Irving. Alternatively, as YMSM 187 was recorded as being in JW's studio in 1884, (see Blanche, Jacques-Emile, 'James McNeill Whistler,' Renaissance Latine, June 1905, pp. 353-78, p. 358), he may have hoped to do some more work on it. However, according to Roof, Katherine Metcalf, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase, New York, 1917, pp. 143-44, it was with Henry Graves (1806-1892), print dealer and founder of H. Graves and Co. [more], where Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more], had placed it as security for a loan after JW's lawsuit against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], in November 1878. According to Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, 1, p. 297, Graves finally sold it to Irving for £100 in c. 1881.