UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Bourgeois, Léon
Record 20 of 20

System Number: 10996
Date: [December 1891?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: George Washburn Smalley[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, PA
Call Number: AMs 384/11
Document Type: ALS


21, CHEYNE WALK,[3]
CHELSEA.

Charming my dear Smalley! - And now what you have said is so absolutely excellent, that I think I may be justified in letting you add one or two facts that will enable you to complete the situation in its full poetical justice -

In the first place what has occurred is without any precedent - in that the French Gouvernment [sic] took the initiative step - and le Ministre[4] de l'Instruction Publique, et des Beaux Arts, wrote himself direct to me personally, asking me if I would "ceder ce tableau[5] au Gouvernement Francais" - [p. 2] and trusting that in such case, my conditions, might not prove an obstacle to its purchase - I replied, saying, that the obstacle foreseen in his letter, could not exist, since I begged to place in his own hands the forming of the conditions - which he should fix according to the resources placed at his disposal by the State in similar cases -

I added that "this high testimony of sympathy, crowning as it does, the graceful honours that have come to me from France, is to me too precious, to permit me on such occasion to be willing to examine another any other consideration. -

Such a démarche on the part of the Gouvernment is openly acknowledged to be quite unheard of - and is equivalent to, and universally accepted as an official engagement that the picture goes to the Louvre! - Now my dear Smalley, this is simply the greatest honour that can possibly be conferred upon an Artist - and it occurs [p. 3] to me in my lifetime! - You may therefore well congratulate me - and I look upon the spirit in which your article is written, as a proof of your sympathy and appreciation - It is capital what you say about Ruskin[6] - and perfectly true. I am delighted that these things should be known in America - and you state them with a calmness and dignity that is to me most charmingly refreshing. -

Wherefore it seems to me, that you might go further, and tell them of the present hanging of the Carlyle[7] in the Victorian Exhibition. This picture, whose story is complete - whose honours have been gathered abroad - in Paris - in Brussels - in Münich - this picture whose destiny has been accomplished - it belongs to the Town of Glascow [sic] - has been [p. 4] has been [sic] borrowed from the Corporation who loaned it in good faith, and skied in the show! - Could any thing be more perfect - as a resumé of all the past! - Was ever revenge more complete? - One work received with high honour in the Luxembourg on its way to the Louvre - at the very moment, that another is hoist with equally high disrespect in a gallery in Regent Street! -

I leave these details to your own brilliant and effective telling - while at the same time I trust you will not be troubled with them if you consider them difficult or out of place in your next letter -

Always Yours sincerely

J McN. Whistler

Whenever you have anything do send it to me -


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Notes:

1.  [December 1891?]
Dated by reference to the Victorian Exhibition and Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

2.  George Washburn Smalley
George Washburn Smalley (1833-1916), journalist and Times correspondent [more].

3.  21, CHEYNE WALK,
This printed heading also appears at the top of page three.

4.  le Ministre
Léon Bourgeois (1851-1925), politician, Ministre des Beaux Arts [more], wrote to JW on 19 November 1891, #01494.

5.  tableau
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101), which was bought by the French Government in November 1891.

6.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

7.  Carlyle
Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137), then on show in The Victorian Exhibition illustrating fifty years of Her Majesty's Reign, 1837-1887, New Gallery, London, 1891-1892.