UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 1 of 2

System Number: 08045
Date: [September 1867?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Henri Fantin-Latour[2]
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 1/33/25
Document Type: ALS[3]


'24' / '1867 ou 8'[4]

(N[o.] 1.)[5]

2 Lindsey Row -
Old Battersea bridge
Chelsea. London

Cher Fantin -

J'ai aussi bien trop de choses a te dire pour te les écrire ce matin - car je suis d'un accablé de travail impossible! - c'est l'embarras d'accouchement! tu connais ca - j'ai plusieurs tableaux[6] dans la tête et ils en sortent avec difficulté - car il faut te dire que je suis maintenant d'un exigeant et d'un difficile bien autre que dans le temps où je jetais tout ca pel mel sur la toile - sachant que l'instinct et la belle couleur me meneraient [p. 2] toujours à bout! - Ah mon cher Fantin quelle affreuse education je me suis donné! ou plutôt quel manque terrible d'education je me sens! - Avec les belles qualités que je tiens de la nature quel peintre je serais maintenant! si, vaniteux et content de ces qualités, je n'avais fait fi de tout autre chose! Non! vois tu le temps ou je suis venu était bien mauvais pour moi!

Courbet[7]! et son influence a été dégoutant! le regret que je sens et la rage la haine même que j'ai pour cela maintenant t'étonerait peutêtre mais voiçi l'explication - Ce n'est pas le pauvre Courbet qui me repugne, ni ces peintures oeuvres non plus. J'en reconnais comme toujours les qualités - Je ne me plains pas non plus [p. 3] de l'influence de sa peinture sur la mienne - il n'y en a pas eu, et on n'en trouvera pas dans mes toiles - Ca ne pouvait pas être; parce que je suis bien personel et que j'ai été riche en qualités qu'il n'avait pas et qui me suffisaient - Mais voici pourquoi tout cela à été bien pernicieuse pour moi - C'est que ce damné Realisme faisait apel immediate à ma vanité de peintre! et se moquant de toutes les traditions criait tout haut, avec l'assurance de l'ignorance "Vive la Nature!!" la nature! Mon cher ce cri là a été un grand malheur pour moi! - Où pouvait on trouver un apotre plus pret à accepter cette théorie, si commode pour lui! ce calmant pour toute inquietude! - Quoi? il n'avait plus qu'à ouvrir ses yeux et peindre ce qui se trouvait devant lui! la belle nature et tout le bataclan! ce n'était que ca! et bien on allait voir! [p. 4] Et l'on a vu - le piano - La Fille blanche - Les Tamises - les vues de mer[8] . . . . des toiles enfin produit par un polisson qui se gonflait de vanité de pouvoir montrer aux peintres des dons splendides - des qualités qui ne demandaient qu'une education sevère pour faire de leur possesseur un maitre au moment qu'il est - et non un écolier débauché.

Ah mon ami! notre petite bande a été bien une société vicieuse! Ah! que n'ai-je été un éleve de Ingres[9]! - Je ne dis point ceci par rhapsodie devant ses tableaux - Je ne les aime que mediocrement - Je trouve plusieurs de ses toiles que nous avons vu ensemble d'un style bien questionable - pas du tout Grec comme on veut le dire - mais bien vicieusement Francais!

Je sens qu'il y a bien plus loin [p. 5] (No. 2.)[10] à aller! de choses bien plus belles à faire - Mais je repete que n'ai-je été son éleve! Quel maitre qu'il aurait été - Comme il nous aurait sainement conduit - le dessin! pardieu! la couleur - c'est vrai c'est le vice! certainement qu'elle peut être et a le droit d'être une des plus belles vertus - bien tenu avec main forte - bien guidée par son maitre le dessin - la couleur alors est [illegible] une fille splendide avec un époux digne d'elle - son amant mais aussi son maitre, - la maitresse la plus magnifique possible! - et le resultat se voit dans toutes les belles choses produitent par leur union! - Mais accolée avec l'incertitude - un dessin faible - craintif - vicieux - qui se contente facilement, la couleur devient une crane putain! se [p. 6] moque pas mal de 'son petit homme' n'est ce pas vrai! et se galvaude comme bon lui semble - prenant legerement la chose pourvu que tout soit pour elle charmant! traitant son malheureux compagno[n] comme un beta qui la gene! ce qui du reste est vrai aussi! - et le resultat se voit: un chaos de griseries de tricheries, de regrets - de choses incompletes!

Allons assez! [illegible line of text] Enfin ca t'explique le travail enorme que je me donne maintenant a faire - Et bien mon cher cette education je la fais depuis plus d'un an - depuis longtemps et je suis sur que je ratrapperai le temps mal employé - mais que peines! - Je t'envoies une photographie d'apres la petite [p. 7] '(No. 3.)[11]' esquisse du 'balcon[12]' - Je vais le faire grand presque comme nature pour le salon - Dis moi ce que [tu] en penses pour composition, lignes etc . . . la couleur en est tres éclatante -

Aussi voiçi un croquis[13] de la composition qui m'occupe maintenant - Je travail aussi a arranger le 'Pont[14]' - une composition tres importante je crois comme resultat -

Je passe la journée avec des models a dessiner[15]!! - Ceci est entre nous - inutile que les autres en causent - Mon cher Fantin je regrette bien que tu ne puisses venir me faire une visite - seulement la cause fait que je t'en felicite.

Te voilà maintenant vraiement [p. 8] lancé dans le grand monde! Bravo! mon cher - j'en suis tres heureux - et je suis sur que le tableau[16] que tu vas faire et dont tu me parles sera une bien belle chose -

Envois m'en un croquis quand tu l'auras arrangé -

Quand aux autres il y a long - mais pas gras. Legros[17] avait un tableau au salon ici la Psyché[18] - tres mauvais composition et tout - une petite scene d'Eglise peutêtre assez bien mais mal accrochée on ne voyait pas bien - Il n'est plus reçu chez les Ionides[19] -

Je ne vais plus le battre [p. 9] '(No. 4.)[20]' pour ses cancans sur moi a Paris parce que il est trop miserable - du reste apres avoir été battu c'est tout naturel qu'il m'en veulle[sic]! tandis que de ma part c'est aussi naturel que je ne lui en veux plus! Le nommé Favard[21] ferait bien de se mefier ca pourrait bien lui arriver aussi! -

Quand a Burty[22], le petit chien de Haden[23] - on n'ecoute point ses jappements - seulment quelque fois quand les petits chiens vous irritent et se trouvent sous vos pieds ils recoivent un coup de pied dans le derriere! - Haden a eu la sottise de se plaindre des coups qu'il a recu de moi - au club[24] dont nous sommes tous les deux membres - en menaçant de me faire expulser! Ca lui a raté dans les mains! [p. 10] mais de ça je te causerai une autre fois - C'est meme tres amusant - Autrement en tout j'ai jusqu'à present triomphé - Ce que tu appel mon bonheur insolent dure toujours! Pauvre Baudelaire[25]! - Ecris moi mon cher Fantin - Fais mes amitiés a Manet et aux autres[.] Dis a Manet[26] qu'en recevant sa lettre avec le mot de Burger[27] j'ai tout de suite ecrit une longue lettre à Burger, à laquelle je n'ai jamais eu de réponse - Le bonjour a Emile[28] et Ernest[29] - Je t'envois les recipicés pour les eaux fortes[30] - les autres Haden les a eu il y a longtemps! Maintenant ne pourait tu pas faire emballer pour moi le tableau du pont de Westminster[31] et me[32] l'envoyer par petite vitesse? toi même. La caisse e[s]t chez le Concierge en bas -

Tout a toi

Whistler


This document is protected by copyright.


Translation:

2 Lindsey Row -
Old Battersea bridge
Chelsea. London

Dear Fantin -

I have far too many things to tell you to write to you about them this morning - as I am weighed down with impossible work! - it's the pain of giving birth! you know what that is - I have several pictures in my head and they only come out with difficulty - for I must tell you that I am much more exacting and demanding now than the time when I threw everything down pell mell on the canvas - knowing that instinct and fine colour would always bring me [p. 2] through in the end! - Ah my dear Fantin what a frightful education I gave myself - or rather what a terrible lack of education I feel I have had! - With the fine gifts I possess from nature what a fine painter I would have been by now! if, vain and satisfied with those gifts, I had not spurned everything else! No! you see the time that I arrived was really bad for me!

Courbet! and his influence was odious! the regret I feel and the rage, hate even, I feel for all that now would astonish you perhaps but this is the explanation. It's not poor Courbet whom I find loathsome, any more than his paintings work - As always I recognize the qualities they have - I am not complaining either [p. 3] about the influence of his painting on mine - there was none, and you will not find it in my canvases - There couldn't be; because I am too personal and I had many qualities that he did not have but which suited me well - But this is the reason why all that was so bad for me. That damned Realism made an immediate appeal to my vanity as a painter! and mocking all tradition cried out loud, with all the confidence of ignorance, "Long live Nature!!" nature! My dear fellow, that cry was a great misfortune for me! - Where could you have found an apostle more ready to accept this theory, so appealing to him! this remedy for all disquiet - What? All he had to do was to open his eyes and paint what was there in front of him! beautiful nature and the whole caboodle! that was all there was to it! and then people went to see it! And they saw - the piano, the White Girl, the Thames pictures - the seascapes ... canvases produced by a nobody puffed up with pride at showing off his splendid gifts to other painters - qualities which only required strict education to make their owner the master he really is - not a degenerate student.

Ah my friend! our little band was a depraved group! Oh! how I wish I had been a pupil of Ingres! I don't say that because I go into raptures looking at his pictures - I only like them up to a point - I think that many of his canvases that we saw together are in very questionable style - not at all Greek as people pretend - but very pervertedly French!

I feel there's much further [p. 5] (No. 2) to go! much more beautiful things to do - But I repeat I wish I had been his pupil! What a master he would have been - How soundly he would have guided us - drawing! my God! colour - it's really a vice! certainly it can be and has the right to be one of the most beautiful virtues - if directed by a strong hand - well guided by its master drawing - colour is then a splendid bride with a spouse worthy of her - her lover but also her master, - the most magnificent mistress possible! - and the result is to be seen in all the beautiful things produced by their union! - But coupled with indecision - feeble drawing - timid - vicious - easily satisfied, colour becomes a swanky tart! [p. 6 ] making spiteful fun of "her little fellow", she really does! and amusing herself as she pleases - treating everything lightly so long as it is all fine for her! treating her unfortunate companion like a duffer who bores her! which is just what he does! and the result is there to be seen: a chaos of intoxication, of trickery, of regrets - of unfinished things!

Enough of this! [illegible line, crossed out] Well, it explains the enormous amount of work that I am now requiring myself to do - well my dear chap I have been undergoing this education for more than a year now - for a long time, and I'm sure I will make up for the time I've wasted - but what difficulties! I'm sending you a photograph of the little [p. 7] (No. 3) study for the "balcony" - I am going to do it almost lifesize for the Salon - Tell me what you think of the composition, lines etc., the colour is very brilliant -

Also here is a rough sketch of the composition which I am working on now - I'm also working at an arrangement of the Bridge - I think it will produce a very important composition -

I spend the whole day drawing from models!! - This is just between us - no need for the others to talk about it - My dear Fantin I'm very sorry that you can't come and visit me - only I congratulate you on the reason why you cannot.

There you are, now really [p. 8] launched into high society! Bravo my dear fellow - I'm very happy for you - and I'm sure that the picture you are going to do which you tell me about will be a fine thing.

Send me a rough sketch when you get it organized.

As for the others there's a little [to tell you] - but nothing much. Legros had a picture at the Salon here, Psyche - very bad in composition and everything - a little church scene perhaps all right, but so badly hung you couldn't see it well - He's no longer welcome at the Ionides -

I'm not going to beat him any more [p. 9] (No. 4) for gossiping about me in Paris because he's too pathetic - after all having been beaten it is only natural that he should be angry with me! while for my part it's only natural that I am no longer angry with him! That Favard would do well to look out, it could well happen to him too! -

As for Burty, Haden's little dog - his yapping is no longer heard - only sometimes when little dogs keep on irritating you and getting under your feet they get a kick in the behind! - Haden has had the stupidity to complain about the blows he got from me - to the club where we are both members - threatening to have me expelled! - that's blown up in his hands [p. 10] but I'll tell you about that another day - it's even very funny - All in all I'm on the winning side so far - what you call my impudent good luck is still lasting out! Poor Baudelaire! - Write to me my dear Fantin - Give my best wishes to Manet and the others. Tell Manet that on receiving his letter with Burger's note I immediately wrote a long letter to Burger, to which I never had a reply - Say hello to Émile and Ernest - I am sending you the receipts for the etchings - the others Haden had a long time ago! Now could you not have the picture of Westminster Bridge packed up for me and have it sent by slow goods service? yourself. The packing case for it is with the concierge downstairs -

Yours always -

Whistler


Notes:

1.  [September 1867?]
If the reference to 'pauvre Baudelaire' refers to his death, rather than illness, then this letter must date from September 1867 at the earliest (see below).

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

3.  ALS
Published, in translation, in Spencer, Robin, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, New York, 1989, pp. 82-84.

4.  '24' / '1867 ou 8'
Numbers added in two different hands.

5.  (N[o.] 1.)
Double underlined.

6.  tableau
Possibly 'The Six Projects' (YMSM 82-87) (excat 11).

7.  Courbet
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), painter [more].

8.  piano - La Fille blanche - Les Tamises - les vues de mer
At the Piano (YMSM 24); Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38); and perhaps works such as The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) and The Last of Old Westminster (YMSM 39), and seascapes such as The Coast of Brittany (YMSM 37). Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64) actually shows Courbet on the beach, when they worked together at Trouville in 1865.

9.  Ingres
Jean Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), painter [more].

10.  (No. 2.)
Written by JW at the top of the second folded sheet of paper, and underlined twice.

11.  (No. 3.)
Written by JW at the top of the third sheet of paper, and underlined twice.

12.  balcon
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56). An oil sketch, Sketch for 'The Balcony' (YMSM 57), was squared up for enlargement but the composition was never enlarged.

13.  croquis
There is no drawing in the letter. A pen drawing, Sketch for 'Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony' (M.319), was acquired by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), print-publisher, collector and philanthropist [more], and has been assumed to date from about 1864: however, it could date from this period.

14.  pont
Some drawings related to 'The Six Projects', such as r.: A composition: women on a terrace; v.: A nude bent over holding on to a parasol (M.342) and r.: A composition - draped figures on a terrace; v.: Studies for 'Variations in Blue and Green' (M.343), may be ideas for a scene with figures on a bridge. However, it is possible that JW had ideas as early as 1867 for Blue and Silver: Screen, with Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 139), which mainly dates from the early 1870s.

15.  dessiner
Drawings from models include r.: Draped figure; v.: [Indecipherable] (M.329) and Greek Girl (M.333).

16.  tableau
Possibly H. Fantin-Latour, Un Atelier aux Batignolles (FL.409) (z138) (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).

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

18.  Psyche
A. Legros, Cupid and Psyché (z139) (Tate Gallery, London) and A. Legros, The Communion (z140) (William Morris Gallery, London) were exhibited at the 99th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1867, cat. nos. 264 and 612 (see Wilcox, Timothy, Alphonse Legros 1837-1911 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1988), cat. nos. 34 and 37, repr. p. 75 and p. 148 fig. 13).

19.  Ionides
Alexander ('Aleco') Ionides (1840-1898), businessman [more].

20.  (No. 4.)
Written by JW at the top of the final sheet of paper, and underlined twice.

21.  Favard
Antoine Favard (b. 1829), painter [more].

22.  Burty
Philippe Burty (1830-1890), critic [more]. Burty had praised the etchings of F. S. Haden at the expense of JW (see Burty, 'L'oeuvre de M. Francis Seymour Haden', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Sér. 1, 17, No. 3, 1864, p. 272; see Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 144-46).

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

24.  club
In April 1867, JW quarrelled with Haden, over Haden's treatment of James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. Traer died suddenly on 23 April of alcohol related causes, during a trip to Paris. Haden arranged for Traer's burial with what JW and his brother William regarded as unseemly haste. On 26 April, a violent row took place between the brothers-in-law in a Paris café and Haden fell (or allegedly was pushed by JW) through a plate glass window. Both JW and Haden were members of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and in the aftermath of the Traer affair Haden campaigned for JW to be excluded from the club, having brought to its attention several alleged previous incidents of assault involving JW (JW to L. Huth, #02240). JW was expelled at a general meeting of the Club on 13 December (see JW to W. Boxall, #00498).

25.  Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), poet and critic [more]. In 1865 Baudelaire had a stroke, and further attacks resulted in aphasia and partial paralysis. He died on 31 August 1867, at the age of forty-six.

26.  Manet
Edouard Manet (1832-1883), painter [more].

27.  Burger
Etienne Joseph Théophile Thoré (1807-1869), alias Thoré-Burger, writer and art critic [more], whose letter to Manet, enquiring about the possibility of buying JW's At the Piano (YMSM 24), was forwarded to JW (15 April/May 1867, #00433).

28.  Emile
Not identified. It is not really likely to be Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola (1840-1902), novelist, critic and political activist [more].

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

30.  eaux-fortes
JW was still working on the 'Thames Set' of etchings, finally published as A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95) (excat 4) by F. S. Ellis in 1871. Some of the copper plates had been left in Paris as surety for an unpaid bill.

31.  pont de Westminster
Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 33), which was exhibited at Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867.

32.  et me ... Whistler
The letter is concluded in the left margin and cross-written.