UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 4 of 4

System Number: 00232
Date: [25 December 1878 / January 1879][1]
Author: Welbore St. Clair Baddeley[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler B6
Document Type: ALS


'No. 80'

12 Portsea Place
Connaught Sq:
W.

Thank you very much, my dear Mr. Whistler, for your kind expression of sympathy with me. I found a copy of your clever pamphlet[3] on my table when I arrived from the country this evening. I need not tell you that your stroke - sharp and swift, therein, is to my mind a far more noble and natural outcome of our time than the purgatory of art ideas that called it forth.

Goethe[4], who in every sense was a greater critic of art matters than the more modern Samson[5] - Mr. Ruskin[6], never, to my knowledge, allowed his ableness of opinion to intrude on the domain of his friend the painter with such immodest hypocrisy. Art criticism so-called often strikes me as being the ruined nucleus of an indecisive, but art-tending temperament. In the Art-critic is usually to be found a series of elements, resembling the ingredients of a bitter pill,: for instance, elementary knowledge of music, sufficient to make him express a passionate contempt for one great [p. 2] composer against another whom he delights to honour with his idolatry: - sufficient self-complacency in poetic matters, to lay down in an elaborate, cashmere-shawl-style, laws known to every bard since Methusaleh[7] through their obvious simplicity: - &c - : these then, with a final supersaturation of imperfectly comprehended metaphysical systems and an inflated contempt for the feelings of men he never can understand go to fashion forth this aesthetic Hydra[8] which you have struck boldly and for aught I know deeply. the blow was I believe unexpected and if I know Ruskin's temperament, he is taring [sic] his hair to reply. I gathered during this last month from converse that what were liked most among your Grosvenor pictures[9] were the nocturnes rather than the harmonies[.] Your wondrous night atmosphere first arrested my gaze until I felt a curious fascination towards the objects so mysteriously and truthfully reposing in it. I hope if there is any chance of finding you in, to pay you a short visit soon: until when My dear Mr. Whistler, let me remain with best thanks,

Very sincerely yours

Welbore St. Clair Baddeley


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Notes:

1.  25 December 1878/January 1879
Dated from the publication of Art and Art Critics; see below.

2.  Welbore St. Clair Baddeley
Welbore St Clair Baddeley (1856-1945), traveller, amateur archaeologist, and writer [more].

3.  pamphlet
Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878. The first issue is dated 24 December 1878; see Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, A.3, p. 1.

4.  Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), poet, novelist and dramatist [more].

5.  Samson
Biblical figure of extraordinary strength who fought against his Philistine oppressors until he was betrayed by his mistress Delilah (see Judges 13-16).

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

7.  Methusaleh
The Biblical patriarch Methuselah who supposedly lived 969 years (Genesis 5.21-27).

8.  Hydra
A mythological monster in ancient Greece with nine heads. If a head was struck off, it would be replaced by two new ones.

9.  Grosvenor pictures
JW exhibited eight pictures: Nocturne in Blue and Silver (YMSM 113); Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137); Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140); Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Westminster Bridge (YMSM 145); Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181); Arrangement in Brown (YMSM 182); and Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain (YMSM 187), at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877.