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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Figaro, Le (Paris)
Record 1 of 32

System Number: 01073
Date: 26 June 1859
Author: Henri Fantin-Latour[1]
Place: Paris
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler F4
Document Type: ALS


26 Juin 59.

Mon cher Whistler

que devenez vous, que faites vous. j'ai attendu et j'attends toujours une lettre de vous. j'ai rencontrer [Echerny[2]?] (qui me charge de vous souhaiter le bonjour) qui m'a donner votre adresse de suite je m'en sers et me voila plume en main (instrument qui me gène bien) pour vous demander de vos nouvelles ce que vous faites et ce qui se passe ici. j'ai su par Ernest[3] que vous en etiez a vous installer dans ce superbe atelier[4], si confortable ou il ne manque rien! cela a redoubler notre curiosité (moi et Legros[5]) sur ce que vous faisiez dedans. j'ai attendu une lettre pour me rassurer sur l'idée que j'ai toujours que quand on a tout sous la main, on se repose on se laisse aller, mais rien. - . pas de nouvelles .... [4 dots] J'ai vu Poynter[6] je lui ai demander si vos Eaux fortes[7] etaient exposés. il n'en savait rien voila des choses a m'ecrire!! ............ [12 dots] Legros me disait ce soir quil etait sur que vous etiez en train de faire quelque chose de superbe sans en parler et que nous vous verrions d'ici peu de temps. Je le voudrais bien, c'est triste depuis que vous n'estes plus ici a Paris, je vois Legros moins souvent quelquefois chez Andler[8] le moins souvent possible cela fait coucher tard, et les fonds manquent, cela est pourtant bien agreable Courbet[9] est si charmant, Legros il y va souvent il vont bien ensemble il a des articles superbe dans le [p. 2] figaro. dans la gazette des beaux Arts, dans la Causerie[10] dans la Revue Francaise de Baudelaire[11] qui est charmant[,] Duranti[12] en fera un dans le Courrier de Paris, celui d'Astruc[13], dans le Quart d'heure[14], puis il en aura dans le courrier du Commerce [15]voila ceux dont j'ai eu connaissance. le succès, les femmes, la bonne chère, le vin, la biere, des connaissance par suite de ces articles. une ovation enfin !!!!!!!!! [! x 8:] . . Si je ne le voyais travaillant beaucoup j'en aurais peur, car (me voila toujours) comme cela fait du tort le succès, cela fait reposer, on s'asseoit dessus et l'on est dérangé, on ne fait plus pour sa seule satisfaction - pour soi même ce qui est je crois la seule chose dans l'art, faire ce qui Vous fait plaisir, ce que l'on sent, les fautes on doit s'en corriger seul, vous savez ce que je pense des conseils, correction. l'homme doué doit marcher seul, droit a son but, ce qui arrive nest rien, refusé, reussir, vendre plaire, blague que tout cela, en Avant et toujours preocupé de faire bien, de se faire plaisir. Legros a un grand tableaux[16] entrain (une chambre - toile de 3 mètres de long, une biere, autour des gens qui pleure prie etc) Courbet dit, cela est bien juste que cest ce qu il a fait de mieux. il me charge de vous dire bien des choses de sa part (a Legros) nous causons toujours de Whistler ici. Je vais voir vos Eaux fortes[17] (vous savez que j'ai été leur premier amateur celui qui les a comprises au Café Voltaire[18]) a l'exposition on les a Encore eloignés l'une de l'autre celle de votre beau frère[19] est diablement belle, j'ai vu dimanche un monsieur qui la regardait, il a été heureux de pouvoir me dire que cela lui faisait grand plaisir nous avons causer je lui ai monter les votres il les connaissait et en était enchanté, il avait vu la collection complète chez Delatre ou il avait [p. 3] été curieux de savoir qui vous étiez et de savoir si il y en avait d'autres nous en étions là lorsque un imbecile vient me dire bonjour et menbète pendant quelques moment, ce monsieur était parti[,] sans cette brute je faisait la connaissance d'une personne que j'ai vu Capable de comprendre les belles choses cela est si rare que j'en ai été enbeté pendant bien longtemps. ici tout le monde me charge de vous dire bien des choses. Je n'ai rien a faire ma position est toujours de plus en plus triste cela est arrivé a un tel point que je suis gueri de tout de blaguer, de critiquer, je reste seul, je travaille beaucoup pour moi, etude d'après moi bien meilleure que mon exposition[20] et que tout ce que j'ai fait j'ai une certaine consolation a me savoir dans mon coin faisant de la peinture pour moi en dehors de tout le monde sans que personne la voye, dans ces 15 derniers jours j'ai travaille énormèment j'ai près de 12 etudes soit d'après moi, tête, buste, en pied, interieur, nature morte, je me sens dégager de tout ce que j'ai vu ou étudier. oh la nature quelle belle chose. je rentre du Louvre je dine et de 5h. a 8h. du soir je me mets devant ma glace et en tête a tête avec la nature nous nous disons des choses qui valent mille fois tout ce que la plus charmante femme peut dire. oh l'art!! quel dommage que l'on soit obligé de songer a avoir du pain a manger le lendemain - triste inquietude! après mon travail a la nuit je fait ma palette, je bourre une pipe et rentre au pas me coucher, là triste, inquiet sur l'avenir. quand cela est trop fort je vais un moment chez Andler mais j'en reviens plus triste, aussi ces visites deviennent de plus en plus rare. ma derniere copie, il ne l'a pas trouvé assez fini, (le grand mot) et ne m'a rien donné a faire cet amateur[.] j'etais refusé au salon[21]. après cela fait une nature morte dont [p. 4] j'étais content. très achevé, rendre le plus possible je la vends 40 sous a l'hotel des Ventes. j'en esperais 5 francs et je me disais en faisant deux par semaine a peu près eh bien, cela sera encore bon, etude d'après nature et puis encore un prix cela ira. mais 2 francs. pas de chance. Je me suis rejeté encore sur le Louvre je fais un Chardin[22] je trouverai peut être dans les gens qui passent, j'ai eu deja un individu, mais il a trouvé que 150 francs que je lui faisait c'etait bien cher, moi qui passe un temps la dessus, qui recommence jusqu'a que je sois satisfait, enfin en voila assez de tout cela. ca va peut être tourner comme vous dites, ecrivez moi, dites moi ce quil y a de nouveau, ce que vous faites, du courage il en faut, cest encore une rude choses que la peinture, il y a des gens qui croye que c'est un art de flaneur, votre ami qui pense bien a vous et qui vous desire ici si cela se pouvait (mais songez que pour vivre avec ce que l'on fait n'est pas possible a notre age surtout)

Henri Fantin la Tour

rue Férou[23] no 15

[endorsed at foot of p. 4 in another hand:] '46807 / 15 April 59'


This document is protected by copyright.


Translation:

26 June 59

My dear Whistler what has become of you, what are you doing. I have waited and am still waiting for a letter from you. I met [Echerny?] (who asks me to give you his regards), who gave me your address I'm using it straight away and here I am pen in hand (a tool which I find most irritating) to ask you for your news what you are doing and what is happening here. I heard from Ernest that you were in the course of moving into that superb studio, so comfortable where nothing is lacking! that redoubled our curiosity (me and Legros) about what you were doing there. I waited for a letter to reassure me about the feeling I still have that once people have everything they sit back and relax, but nothing. - . no news .... I saw Poynter I asked him if your etchings were being exhibited. he knew nothing about it now there is something to write to me about!! ............ Legros told me this evening that he was sure that you were doing something superb without talking about it and that we should see you very soon. I would like that, it has been sad in Paris since you left, I see Legros less often sometimes at Andler's as little as possible it means I get to bed late and I am short of funds, it is very pleasant nonetheless Courbet is so charming, Legros often goes there they get on very well he has some superb articles in the [p. 2] figaro. in the gazette des Beaux Arts, in the Causerie in the Revue Francaise by Baudelaire, who is charming[,] Duranti will do one in the Courrier de Paris, that is Astruc's, in the Quart d'heure, then he will have one in the courrier du Commerce those are the ones I know about. success, women, good food, wine, beer, new acquaintances as a result of these articles, in short an accolade !!!!!!!!.. If I had not seen him working hard I would have feared for him, because (here I go again) success can be harmful, it makes you relax, you sit on it and are distracted, you no longer work only for your own satisfaction - for yourself, which I believe is the only thing in art, to do what gives You pleasure, what you feel, you alone should correct the faults, you know what I think of advice, correction. the gifted man should walk alone, straight to his goal, what happens is nothing, rejection, success, selling pleasing, all that is nonsense, Onwards and always preoccupied with doing well, pleasing yourself. Legros has a large painting in hand (a bedroom - canvas 3 metres long, a bier, around it people weeping, praying, etc) Courbet says, it is very fine, it is his best work. He asks me to send you his (Legros') regards we are always talking about Whistler here. I'm going to see your etchings (you know that I was their first admirer the one who understood them at the Café Voltaire) at the exhibition they have spaced them out away from each other again the one by your brother-in-law is devilishly fine, on Sunday I saw a gentleman looking at it, he was happy to be able to tell me that it gave him great pleasure we talked and I showed him yours he knew them and was enchanted by them, he had seen the complete collection at Delatre's where he had [p. 3] been curious to know who you were and to know whether there were more of them[,] at that point an idiot came up to talk to me and annoyed me for a few moments, the gentleman left[,] without this lout I would have made the acquaintance of a person whom I had seen as Capable of understanding beautiful things that is so rare that I was annoyed for a long time. everyone here is asking me to send you their greetings. I have nothing to do my position is more and more depressing it has come to such a point that I am cured of everything joking, criticism, I keep to myself, I am working a great deal for myself, work which according to me is much better than my exhibition piece and than everything I have done I have a certain consolation in seeing myself in my corner painting for myself away from everyone without anyone seeing it, in this last fortnight I've worked prodigiously I have almost 12 studies in my style, head, bust, full length, interior, still life, I feel detached from everything I have seen or studied. oh how beautiful nature is. I return from the Louvre I dine and from 5 to 8 p.m. I sit facing my mirror and face to face with nature we tell each other things which are worth a thousand times more than words from the most charming woman. oh, art!! what a pity that one has to think about having bread to eat the next day - a sad worry! after my work in the night I do my palette, fill a pipe and go home on foot to bed, there sad and anxious about the future. when it is all too much I go to Andler's for a while but return even sadder, so these visits are becoming more and more rare. he did not think my latest copy finished enough, (the great word) and this amateur did not give me anything to do[,] I was rejected at the Salon. after that did a still life which [p. 4] I was pleased with. very finished, worked as much as possible I'm selling it for 40 sous at the Sale house. I was hoping for 5 francs for it and said to myself that doing two a week roughly, well that will be all right, a study from nature and then a prize that will be fine. but 2 francs. not a hope. I turned back to the Louvre I am doing a Chardin perhaps I will find someone in the people passing by, I have already had one person, but he thought that 150 francs which I asked him for was very expensive, and I had spent such a time on it, carrying on until I was satisfied, in any case enough of all that. perhaps things will change as you say, write to me, tell me what is new, what you are doing. One needs courage, painting is hard work, there are people who believe that it is a dabbler's art, your friend who is thinking of you and who would like to see you here if that were possible (but remember that to live on what you do is not possible especially at our age)

Henri Fantin La Tour

rue Férou[24] no 15


Notes:

1.  Henri Fantin-Latour
Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), artist [more]. The transcription gives the text as written, including errors of spelling.

2.  [Echerny?]
The name is not clear.

3.  Ernest
Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), artist [more].

4.  atelier
Probably a reference to the studio JW shared with George Du Maurier at 70 Newman Street. See Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 70-72.

5.  Legros
Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

6.  Poynter
Edward John Poynter (1836-1919), history and genre painter [more].

7.  Eaux fortes
JW had two etchings on exhibition at the Royal Academy. They were listed as 'etchings from nature' and may have been taken from Twelve Etchings from Nature, 1858 (the 'French Set', K.9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24). (excat 3). However, JW's recent etchings of London (K.35-36, 38-47) were also etched from nature. See Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 69-70.

8.  Andler
The Brasserie Andler in the rue de l'Ecole de Médecine. Courbet was often seen here and made an etching of it in 1862 for Delvau, Histoire avec origine des Cafés et Cabarets de Paris. Baudelaire, Bonvin and Corot were also patrons.

9.  Courbet
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), painter [more].

10.  Causerie
La Causerie, edited by Victor Cochinat, appeared weekly on Sundays; the art critic of this paper was E. Bonnet.

11.  Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), poet and critic [more]; his review of the Salon was serialised in La Revue française, 10 June, and 10 and 20 July 1859. He expressed his admiration for JW's work in his essay 'L'eau-forte est à la mode' in La Revue anecdotique, 2 April 1862, reprinted Curiosités esthétiques, Oeuvres complètes, Pléiade, NRF, Gallimard, 1954, ed. Y-G. Le Dantec, p. 849.

12.  Duranti
Edmond Duranty (1833-1880), novelist and critic [more].

13.  Astruc
Zacharie Astruc (1835-1907), artist, journalist and poet [more].

14.  Quart d'heure
Le Quart d'heure; article not located.

15.  courrier du Commerce
Le Courrier de Commerce.; article not located.

16.  tableaux
According to Wilcox, this became L'Ex-Voto, Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts; see T. Wilcox, Alphonse Legros 1837-1911, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, 12 December 1987-15 February 1988 (cat. no. 16, repr.). The painting is now 174 x 197 cms in size. It was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1861 (cat. no. 1900) and in London at the Royal Academy in 1864 (cat. no. 230).

17.  Eaux fortes
JW exhibited two etchings at the Paris Salon from May to August 1859. 'Portrait de femme' (cat. no. 3673), may have been Mère Gérard (K.11), Fumette (K.13), or La Rétameuse (K.14). The other exhibit was La Marchande de Moutarde (K.22a) (cat. no. 3674).

18.  Voltaire
The café-restaurant Voltaire was at no. 1, Place de l'Odéon until 1956. It was a gathering place for intellectuals, poets and artists such as Charpentier the publisher, Alfred de Musset, Eugène Carrière and Eugène Delacroix; Paul Gauguin, Stéphane Mallarmé and Auguste Rodin were afficionados in later years.

19.  beau frère
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. The etching was listed as Vue prise sur la Tamise; eau-forte, under 'Seymour (Haden)' (cat. no. 3657). This was probably Thames Fishermen, No. 1 (S.18), Egham (S.20) or Fulham (S.22) (see Richard S. Schneiderman, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Sir Francis Seymour Haden, London, 1983).

20.  exposition
According to Fleury, H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait de Fantin (FL.113) (z13), 1859 (Grenoble, Museé de Peinture et de Sculpture) and H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait de Mlle Marie Fantin (FL112) (z14), 1859, were rejected at the Salon but exhibited at Bonvin's 'atelier flamand' (Henry Fleuri, Catalogue de l'oeuvre complet (1849-1904) de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1911, pp. 112-113).

21.  salon
Fantin's first submissions to the Salon were the two paintings listed above and Les deux soeurs (FL.114), 1859 (St Louis, City Art Museum): all three were rejected.

22.  Chardin
Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), painter of still life and domestic genre [more]. See H. Fantin-Latour, Copy after Chardin's Le Bénédicité (FL.363) (z16), Musée du Louvre, no. 92.

23.  Férou
Rue Férou is in the VIth arrondissement; Fantin had moved there two months previously, on 30 April 1859.