The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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9th April 2003 - Death of Dante

The artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti died on this day in 1882. Rossetti was one of the founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and was good friends with Whistler throughout his life. The two artists shared a love of the blue and white china which they both collected, and Rossetti was also involved in influencing certain prospective purchasers of Whistler's paintings, including Frederick Richards Leyland. When Whistler was expelled from the Burlington Arts Club in December 1867 as a result of a dispute with his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden, D. G. Rossetti (and his brother William Michael) left in support.

However, there is a sad postscript to Whistler's relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A memorial fountain, incorporating a bust of Rossetti, was to be unveiled at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, on 14 July 1887, in honour of the poet and painter. Whistler was sent an invitation but was not present at the unveiling, which was presided over by fellow artist William Holman Hunt. A few days later Whistler wrote the following words of explanation to William Michael Rossetti, revealing an unfortunate filing error on Whistler's part:

"My dear William -

I am shocked to find that a printed lithographed circular (which with its fellows found its way into the waste paper basket) - turns out to have been an invitation to a function from which I would not for worlds have been absent - I mean of course the unveiling of the drinking fountain in memory of Gabrielle [sic] Rossetti -

I am greatly mortified to know that foolish inattention on my part to printed circulars should have lost me an occasion of doing honour to a friend of your brother's rare calibre -

Also how regrettable is it that a matter of such weight should have been heralded in such an unimportant manner!

No personal note of any kind came to warn me of the event, and I never dreamed that a ceremony of this nature was taking place within a stone's throw of my own home -

I can only trust that no other old friend of Gabriel's was left disappointed from the same cause -

Always affectionately Yours

J McNeill Whistler"

(GUL Whistler R145)