The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Walter Theodore Watts, 1832-1914

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1832.10.12
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1914.06.06
Place of Death: The Pines, Putney, London


Walter Théodore Watts (later Watts-Dunton) was an English solicitor, novelist and poet. He married Clara Jane Reich.


Watts-Dunton was a member of the staff of the Examiner from 1874 until 1876, at which date he became editor of the Athenaeum until 1898. He was the benefactor of Swinburne, whose life he organized and who lived with him from 1879 to 1909. Watts-Dunton edited many literary classics and contributed important articles to The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Among his works are The Coming of Love (1897); Aylwin (1898), a romantic novel about Gypsies; The Christmas Dream (1901); and Old Familiar Faces (1916), a volume of recollections.

Whistler and Watts-Dunton were in frequent correspondence from 1876 until 1890, Whistler confiding artistic and personal matters to him. For example, Whistler wrote to him in February 1878 saying that he meant to deliver Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97) and Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106) to Frederick R. Leyland but had not done so because Leyland did not seem to appreciate it. He also declared that Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107)was incomplete because Florence Leyland had not sat a sufficient amount of time for it.

In 1878 Whistler's lithographs The Toilet (C.10) and The Broad Bridge (C.11) were printed in Picadilly, a journal edited by Watts-Dunton. However, the magazine came to an end shortly after this.

When Whistler quarrelled with Swinburne in 1888 over an article he wrote in the Fortnightly Review criticising the 'Ten O'Clock' lecture, relationships between Watts-Dunton and Whistler became strained.

Watts-Dunton came to own La Mère Gérard (1) (YMSM 26), having been bequeathed it in 1909 by Algernon Charles Swinburne, despite Whistler having expressed to the Pennells in 1900 his desire to repossess it.


Watts-Dunton, T., Nine Letters to Theodore Watts-Dunton from J. McNeill Whistler, London, 1922; Douglas, James, Theodore Watts-Dunton: Poet, Novelist, Critic, London, 1904; Beerbohm, M., 'No. 2 The Pines', And Even Now, 1920; Panter-Downes, Mollie, At the Pines: Swinburne and Watts-Dunton in Putney, London, 1971; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.