The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Brown, Ernest George
Record 18 of 439

System Number: 10057
Date: [12/30 April 1881][1]
Author: Maud Franklin[2]
Place: London
Recipient: Otto Henry Bacher[3]
Place: [Venice]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[4]

76 Alderney Street,
Warwick Square.

My dear Mr Bacher,

Jimmy wishes me to send you the enclosed Scraps[5] - read them first - you will then better understand my letter. Well - Seymour Haden[6], Legros[7], and some other man, - driven to madness almost by this and Jimmy's extraordinary success, - resolved to be avenged; so they go to the Fine Arts Society and they ask to see the Whistler etchings of Venice.[8] They are shown to them and after a good deal of talking amongst themselves - they say to the Secretary, - "Mr [p. 2] Whistler is bound by you to publish no more plates of Venice for a year, is he not?" "Certainly he is," says the man. "Oh, that's it, is it? Do you mind putting on your hat, Mr Brown[9], and coming over to the Hanover Gallery?" So, accordingly, they take Mr Brown over to the place and point out to him three etchings of more or less the same subjects by Mr Duveneck[10] and declare them to be Whistler's. Mr Brown, on looking at them says at once, "They are not Whistler's" - at which remark they snort and still try to convince him that Jimmy is swindling the F. A. S. and is, in short, a scoundrel and a thief.

You can imagine Whistler when the man tells him all this. He, of course, explains that Mr Duveneck is a great personal friend of his who was in Venice at the same time - who was with all his "boys" - was very much amongst all the etching business and consequently any similarity of style could only have occurred from that.

[p. 3] After this, he goes over to the Hanover Gallery to give the three of them a thrashing to the best of his ability - but unfortunately he found the gallery closed. However, all that got very much talked about, and the best of it is they come to the conclusion that they have got themselves in an awful mess, and so send Jimmy a letter of most abject apology, which letter, with one or two others, will most likely be published[11] - in fact, is sure to be. You shall have the papers and see for yourself.

Whistler says he wrote you a line a week or so ago advising you on no account to have anything to do with the "Painter-Etchers" - he says it is a thoroughly rotten scheme and bound to fall through. You will see by the enclosed how the whole thing is ridiculed. So Jimmy says he can't have his pet pupil Bacher in it, and thinks you had better write at once, to Dowdeswell[12], and tell him not to send your etchings there - for it would do you more harm than good to be [p. 4] in any way connected with that set. I think if we wait a little we shall see great fun out of all this.

Thank you so much for those lovely proofs - we are going to have them framed. The scrap-book comes directly with some photos of Jimmy for you "boys," and please tell Mr Ritter[13] that he shall have the autograph, and Mr Pennington[14] that Jimmy will write.

I was sure you would like my dress. I've just been enjoying myself, I can tell you, and have managed to spend a hundred pounds on myself, - what do you think of that, after the impecuniosity of Venice? Ah, well, I should like to go back there all the same. I have lots of things to tell you, but cannot stay now, as I am just off to a swell luncheon. So with kindest regards to all and love from Jimmy to yourself.

Believe me always your sincere friend
and well-wisher

Maud Whistler.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [12/30 April 1881]
Dated from press-cuttings concerning the Painter Etchers' Society and JW's Venice etchings (see below).

2.  Maud Franklin
Mary Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), JW's model and mistress [more].

3.  Otto Henry Bacher
Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), book illustrator and etcher [more].

4.  PLc
Published in Bacher, Otto Henry, 'With Whistler in Venice 1880 – 86,' The Century Magazine, December 1906, pp. 138-143.

5.  Scraps
Copies of JW's correspondence concerning the Painter Etchers' Society and his Venice plates. They may also have included an article which appeared in the Cuckoo on 12 April 1881 (see note below).

6.  Seymour Haden
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. This letter concerns an incident between JW and the newly formed Painter Etcher's Society. In the spring of 1881, the Society held an exhibition at the Hanover Gallery. However, when Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], submitted three Venice etchings, Haden (who was President of the Society) suspected that they were in fact by JW. Anxious to compare the etchings with those that JW had been printing for the Fine Art Society, Haden, Alphonse Legros and Dr Hamilton paid a visit to the Society's gallery. JW was indignant when he heard of the visit, regarding it as an attack on his artistic integrity. A lengthy correspondence ensued which was eventually published in the form of a pamphlet (Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881). The pamphlet appeared in several forms. 'Extracts from the Press' refers to the correspondence that was published together with two articles from the Cuckoo (see 'A Storm in an Aesthetic Teacup,' The Cuckoo: The News and Gossip of the Day, 12 April 1881; 'Mr Whistler and the Painter Etchers,' 30 April 1881). See also correspondence between M. B. Huish and F. S. Haden, #01131, #01944; JW to F. S. Haden, #13147; JW to Painter-Etcher's Society, #11632, 13151; F. S. Haden to E. G. Brown, #01943; JW to C. A. Howell, #02878.

7.  etchings of venice
Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5); JW's The Riva, No.1 (K.192) was similar to some extent in subject and composition to F. Duveneck, The Riva, No. 2.

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

9.  Mr Brown
Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more].

10.  Mr Duveneck
Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

11.  published
This would most likely have been newspaper cuttings from Cuckoo, vol. 1, no. 43, 30 April 1881, pp. 10-11.

12.  Dowdeswell
Probably Charles William Dowdeswell (1832-1915), art dealer [more].

13.  Mr Ritter
Frederick Louis Ritter (1854-1892 ), artist and teacher [more].

14.  Mr Pennington
Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854-1920), artist [more].