Charles Follen McKim was an architect in the firm of McKim, Mead and White of New York. In 1874 he married Annie Bigelow.
McKim encouraged Whistler to submit plans for the decoration of a panel for Bates Hall, Boston Public Library [#03721], and on 26 April 1892 he sent the artist plans and perspective views of Bates Hall, showing the one large and two narrow framing panels that were to be decorated [#03722]. According to Whitehill, John Singer Sargent arranged a dinner at Foyot's in Paris with McKim and the library's chairman Samuel Abbott to persuade Whistler to take up the scheme. In July 1894 Whistler was apparently offered a contract worth $15,000 but in the following spring the offer was withdrawn due to a lack of funds. On 7 May 1895 Whistler wrote to the trustees, attempting to confirm his original agreement with McKim and Abbott that Whistler should choose the subject and paint the panel in his own time, and that the trustees were to decide on payment [#00351]. Study for Three Decorative Panels Representing 'The Landing of Columbus', 'Queen Isabel la Católica of Spain' and 'Queen Elizabeth of England' (YMSM 396), three decorative panels designed for the library, were in Whistler's studio at his death in 1903 (see Study for three decorative panels representing 'The Landing of Columbus', 'Queen Isabel la Catôlica of Spain', and 'Queen Elizabeth of England' for Boston Public Library, Massachusetts (M.1356)).
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Whitehill, Walter M., Boston Public Library, Cambridge, MS, 1956; Whitehill, W. M., 'The Making of an Architectural Masterpiece - The Boston Public Library', American Art Journal, vol. 2, autumn 1970, pp. 13-35; 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.