The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: World, The (London)
Record 16 of 168

System Number: 05660
Date: 6 January 1879
Author: Thomas Taylor[1]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler T5
Document Type: ALS[2]

Lavender Sweep.

Jan: 6. 1879.

'Sans rancune[3]' by all means, my dear Whistler; but you should not have quoted from my article of (June 6th 1874) on Velasquez[4], in such a way as to give exactly the opposite impression to [p. 2] that which the Article, taken as a whole, conveys. I appreciate & admire Velasquez as entirely &, allow me to say, as intelligently as yourself. I have probably seen & studied more of his [p. 3] work than you have. And I imagine maintain that the article you have 'garbled' in your quotation gives a fair & adequate account of the picture it deals with, ('Las Meniñas') & one [p. 4] which any Artist who knows the picture would in essentials, subscribe to.

God help the Artists if ever the criticism of pictures falls into the hands of painters - It would be a case of vivisection all round - Your pamphlet [p. 5] is a very natural result of your late disagreeable legal experiences,[5] though not a very wise one - If the Critics are not better qualified to deal with the painters, than the painter in your pamphlet [p. 6] shews himself qualified to deal with the Critics, it will be a bad day for art, when the hands that have been trained to the brush lay it aside for the pen -

If you had read my [p. 7] article on Velasquez, I cannot but say that you have made an unfair use of it, in quoting a detached sentance [sic] which, read with the context, bears exactly the opposite sense from that you have quoted it [p. 8] as bearing - This is a bad 'throw-off' in the Critical line, whether it affect th 'le premier littérateur venu[6]' or,

Yrs: always,

Tom Taylor.

P.S. As your attack on my Article is public, I reserve to myself the right of giving equal publicity to this letter.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Thomas Taylor
Thomas ('Tom') Taylor (1817-1880), civil servant, dramatist, art critic, and editor of Punch from 1874-1880 [more].

2.  ALS
The letter was published in Whistler, James McNeill, [Correspondence Between Tom Taylor, Art Critic of the Times and Whistler], The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 15 January 1879, and republished in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 35-36, "The Art Critic of the 'Times'"; see also Taylor's letter of 9 January, and JW's of 8 and 10 January 1879 (#05660 - #05664). 'A' written in another hand at top left corner of p. 1, and 'A2' at top of p. 5.

3.  Sans rancune
Fr., no ill feelings.

4.  Velasquez
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more]. The article quoted from the Times was dated 6 June 1874. JW had quoted a short excerpt: 'How the art critic of the Times has found Velasquez "slovenly in execution, poor in colour - being little but a combination of neutral greys and ugly in its forms"' (Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878, republished in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 31). The painting under discussion was Velasquez' most famous work, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez, Las Meniñas (z85), in the Prado, Madrid. JW owned a photograph of the central section, and would have seen a copy in the Royal Academy of the same section by John ('Spanish') Phillip (1817-1867), artist [more]. He could also have seen the early copy of the complete painting from the Kingston Lacy collection on exhibition at the British Institution, but had never seen the original (see MacDonald, Margaret F. et al, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003, pp. 69, 72).

5.  legal experiences,
The case of Whistler v. Ruskin was heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878. JW was awarded a farthing damages and no costs.

6.  le premier littérateur venu
Fr., the first literary hack who comes along.