UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Hiffernan, Joanna
Record 8 of 50

System Number: 07951
Date: [1/5 October 1862][1]
Author: JW
Place: Guéthary
Recipient: Henri Fantin-Latour[2]
Place: Paris
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 1/33/3
Document Type: ALS[3]


Maison de la Croix.
Chez Mons. Louis Daguerre[4].
Guethary
Basses Pyrenées. -

Voici mon cher Fantin l'adresse du petit village, où depuis un mois[5] je travaille à mes tableaux - Je dis mes tableaux car il y en a plusieurs que j'ai en train, mais mon Dieu c'est si difficile! - Le temps ne m'est pas toujours propice et puis je fais si peu de progres! - La grande toile [6]est peutetre assez bien d'arrangement mais ça marche si lentement que j'en suis au desespoir! Il est vrai qu'aujourdhui a été un de mes mauvais jours, et qu'hier j'en pensais mieux - Voiçi une idée un peu vague de l'affaire -

Matelot / espagnol / en rouge
chaloupe / en danger / dans les brisants
rochers
pecheur

[drawing][7]

femmes

Ciel - soir
mer foncée / presque noir
des brisants qui / se suivent de/-puis le fond / jusqu'au premier / plan

[p. 2] Peux tu y voir quelque chose? - Le matelot en Chemise rouge fera bien je crois, il a les jambes nues - parmi les femmes il y aura Jo[8] toute claire et rose, aupres d'elle une vielle toute en noir - Les vagues sont superbes (en nature!) des brisants qui ont l'air d'etre taillés dans de la pierre noire, tellement ils sont solides! - et puis sur le plan du milieu les grandes lames vienent se briser contre les deux rochers separés que tu vois dans la mer - Ecris moi mon cher Fantin - dis moi ce que tu fais - tu dois avoir a me raconter sur la politique des Eaux fortistes[9]! - Je te remercie de m'avoir envoyé "le Boulevard"[10] - c'est égal on fait encore mieux les articles à Londres! - Baudelaire[11] dit beaucoup de choses poetique sur la Tamise, et rien sur les eaux fortes elle meme! - Le nommé Jonkind[12] a l'air de leur aller beaucoup - Veux tu te charger de dire à Cadart[13] que je donnerai une planche en rentrant a Paris, et que je me propose comme membre de la Societé [p. 3] Parles moi du beau frere[14] et de sa seconde visite à Paris - En te revoyant j'espere pouvoir te décrire les Fileuses et la prise de Breda[15]!! Oui mon cher je me propose ce voyage - En attendant figure toi que je me suis presque noyé l'autre jour! - La mer ici est terrible! Je fus emporté par un courant feroce, qui m'entrainait dans ces brisants en question, et si il n'avait pas été pour mon modele à la chemise rouge, je laisait la toile inachevée et le nommé Hook[16] aurait eu plus de chance! C'est que je fichait mon camp raide! la mer était énorme! le soleil se couchait, tout pretait a l'occasion! - je voyais la terre s'eloigner! une vague de quinze pieds m'absorbe, je bois un tonneau d'eau sallée, passe à travers, pour étre avallé par une seconde de vingt pieds, dans laquelle je fais la roue, et suis engoufré dans une troisieme! - Je nageais je nageais, et plus je nageais moins je m'approchais! Ah! mon cher Fantin de sentir ses efforts inutiles! et des spectateurs qui se disaient, mais ce monsieur s'amuse, il doit etre rudement fort! - Je cris je hurle de désepoire - je disparais trois quatre fois - [p. 4] enfin on comprend! Un brave entrepreneur du chemin de fer accourt et il roule deux fois sur la plage! - "le baigneur", (mon modele[17]) entend appeler, arrive au galop, saute dans la mer comme un "terre neuve," parvient a m'attraper une patte, et les deux me retirent! En v'la assez! - Drouet[18] est-il de retour de Bretagne? As tu vu Ernest[19]? - L'ami de Burty[20] a-t-il écrit dans la Gazette sur la fille blanche[21].

L'exposition des Boulevards[22], est-ce ouverte? Ou quand va-t-elle ouvrir? - Alphonse[23] qu'est ce qu'il fait? Ecris moi, mon cher Fantin une bonne longue lettre - As tu beaucoup de commissions en ce moment? et La Meduse[24]? Figures-toi qu'il y a ici encore un autre peintre! il n'y a que moi pour avoir de ces chances là! Enfin c'est un vieux causant beaucoup de l'Ecole Flamande! - mais egalement empesté par Gudin[25]! Il me regard faire avec une pitié supreme - et m'a deja dit que je ne pourrais jamais réussir parceque je ne fais pas mes vagues avec du bitume[26] (tous les Van der ... faisaient leurs vagues avec du bitume) et aussi parceque mes toiles sont de mesure! une marine, dit-il ne doit jamais etre peint sur une toile de mesure! -

Adieu mon ami - écris ta reponse aussitot que possible -
Tout a toi

Jim Whistler.


This document is protected by copyright.


Translation:

Here, my dear Fantin, here is the address of the little village where I have been working on my paintings for a month - I say my paintings because I have several in progress, but Heavens! It's so difficult! The weather isn't always cooperative, and so I make very little progress! The big canvas is perhaps well enough planned, but it's going so slowly that I am at the point of despair! It's true that today was one of my bad days, and that yesterday I thought better of it. Here's a rather vague idea of what it is:

[drawing annotated, left:] Spanish sailor in red
rowing boat in danger in the breakers
rocks
fisherman
[right:] Sky - evening
sea, dark almost black
succession of breakers from background to foreground
[bottom:] women
[on the drawing:] rocks

[p. 2] Can you make something of this? The sailor in the red shirt will come out well, I think, his legs are bare - among the women, there will be Jo all bright and rosy, next to her an old woman all in black. The waves are wonderful (in nature!), with breakers that seem to be hewn from black stone, they are so solid! and then in the middle ground the large waves are breaking against the two separate rocks you see in the sea. Write to me, dear Fantin, tell me what you're up to - you must have things to tell me about the politics of the Etchers! Thank you for sending me "The Boulevard" - all the same, they write even better articles in London. Baudelaire says a lot of poetic things about the Thames, and nothing about the etchings themselves! A certain Jongkind seems to like them very much. Would you take it upon yourself to tell Cadart that I will submit a plate when I return to Paris, and that I propose myself as a member of the Society.

[p. 3] Tell me about the brother-in-law and his second visit to Paris. When I see you I hope to be able to describe to you the Spinners and the Taking of Breda. Yes, my dear fellow, I am thinking of going on this journey. In the meantime, would you believe that I nearly drowned the other day! The sea here is terrible! I was carried off by a strong current that dragged me into the breakers just mentioned and if it hadn't been for my model in the red shirt, I would have left the painting unfinished and a certain Hook would have had more luck! I was giving up. The sea was enormous! The sun was setting, and the scene was set for a great event - I saw the shore move farther and farther away. A fifteen-foot wave swallowed me, I drank a ton of salt water, and went under it only to be swallowed by another twenty-foot wave in which I turned cartwheels and found myself engulfed by a third! I swam and swam and the more I swam the less I came closer to the shore! Oh, my dear Fantin to realize the futility of effort! and the spectators were saying, Oh but see how the monsieur is amusing himself, he must be awfully strong! I cried out, I howled in despair - I disappeared three or four times. [p. 4] Finally someone understood! A brave railroad contractor ran and rolled over twice on the beach! The "bather" (my model) heard the call, came at a gallop, and jumped into the sea like a Newfoundland, managed to grab me by the "paw" and the two pulled me out!

Enough of this! Has Drouet returned from Brittany? Have you seen Ernest? Has Burty's friend written about The White Girl in The Gazette? Is the Boulevards exhibition open? Or, when will it open? What is Alphonse up to? Write me, my dear Fantin, a good long letter. Do you have a lot of commissions right now? And your Medusa? Can you imagine, there is yet another painter here! There's no one but me who has such luck! In short, there's this old man talking a lot about the Flemish School! But just as corrupted by Gudin! He watches me work with the utmost pity, and has already told me that I will never be a success because I don't make my waves with bitumen (all the Van der ... make their waves with bitumen) and also because my canvases are standard! A seascape, he says, should never be painted on a standard canvas! Farewell, my friend - write your answer as soon as possible.

Yours

Jimmy Whistler


Notes:

1.  [1/5 October 1862]
This is the first of several letters from JW in Guéthary in October 1862 (see #01075).

2.  Henri Fantin-Latour
Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), artist [more].

3.  ALS
'1' is written at the top of p. 1 in another hand.

4.  Louis Daguerre
Not identified.

5.  un mois
JW seems to have left Paris between 28 August and 5 September 1862 (see #02026).

6.  grande toile
Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz (YMSM 41).

7.  [drawing]
Sketch of 'Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz' (M.307). JW later painted over the figures, so that from a dramatic subject picture it became a seascape. Traces of the figures, no longer visible on the surface of the painting, can still be seen on close examination. JW's descriptions of the various parts of the composition are written around the drawing.

8.  Jo
Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more].

9.  Eaux fortistes
La Societé des Eaux-fortistes.

10.  le Boulevard
Le Boulevard: Journal Litteraire (see below).

11.  Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), poet and critic [more]. A review by Baudelaire of JW's recent Thames etchings, in Revue Anecdotique, 2 April 1862, was reprinted in Le Boulevard: Journal Litteraire, 14 September 1862 (GM J.1).

12.  Jonkind
Johann Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891), painter and printmaker [more].

13.  Cadart
Alfred Cadart (1828-1875), dealer and print publisher [more].

14.  beau frere
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

15.  Fileuses et la prise de Breda
JW never reached Madrid, or visited the Prado, which owned these two major paintings by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more].

16.  Hook
James Clarke Hook (1819-1907), marine painter, etcher and illustrator. [more].

17.  mon modele
Possibly Baptiste Fagonde, JW's model in Guéthary, Basses Pyrénées; see his letter to JW, #02398.

18.  Drouet
Charles L. Drouet (1836-1908), sculptor and collector [more].

19.  Ernest
Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870), art student, JW's travel companion in 1858 [more].

20.  Burty
Philippe Burty (1830-1890), critic [more].

21.  la fille blanche
Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38).

22.  exposition des Boulevards
The exhibitions run by Louis Martinet (1814-1895), history painter, Directeur des Beaux-Arts [more].

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

24.  La Meduse
Fantin-Latour's copy after Géricault's Le Naufrage de la Méduse (Musée de Louvre (FL. 225), painted for M. de la Rozière, and completed in 1864.

25.  Gudin
Jean-Antoine-Théodore Gudin (1802-1880), marine painter [more].

26.  bitume
Bitumen gave a rich and dark colour but was but unstable as a pigment.