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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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26th August 2003 - The Glasgow Art Scene

On 26 August 1887, the Glasgow art dealer W. Craibe Angus wrote to Whistler about a recent trip to London:

"Just a line to thank you for your kindness to me the other night at The Vale. Your "Ten O'Clock" is unique and I am delighted at having heard it from your own lips. If you come to Glasgow to deliver the "Ten O'Clock" to the Art Club Mr Arthur, whom I have seen today, will be glad to put you up at his house...

"Naval Review Etchings: Select a unique set of these for my firm, and with them the other etchings I laid aside, and make a short note in your own hand stating that the "Naval" Set show[s] all the Plates at their best.

"Again, thanking you for your kindness, I am, Yours truly,
W C Angus.

"I am not letting the matter of the Carlyle portrait sleep"

(GUL MS Whistler A173)

The letter is revealing of Whistler's work and relationship with the art dealers Craibe Angus, who was a major art dealer who sold to collectors like William Burrell. The etchings that Angus mentions were executed by Whistler at the Naval Review at Spithead that marked Queen Victoria's Jubilee on 27 July 1887, and although never actually published as a set, they sold well to connoisseurs such as the Scottish clothing merchant and textile manufacturer Thomas Glen Arthur (1858-1907).

As for Whistler's famous 'Ten O'Clock' Lecture, it was delivered in Princes Hall, London, on 20 February 1885, and on several occasions later in that year. It was the major statement of Whistler's aesthetic position, and a highly entertaining event as well. However, Whistler never visited Glasgow again and certainly did not deliver his lecture to the Glasgow Art Club. However Whistler had plenty of supporters in the Club; indeed, they formed the core of the artists and art-lovers who successfully petitioned the City of Glasgow to buy Whistler's famous portrait of the Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle, the first of Whistler's works ever to enter a public collection.

During the current restoration of Kelvingrove Art Gallery (lasting from summer 2003 to early 2006), the Carlyle portrait forms a centrepiece of the city's Art Treasures exhibition at the McClellan Galleries. Lithographs sold by Craibe Angus to Burrell are on show at The Burrell Collection in Burrell and Whistler: The Master and the Merchant until January 2004.