The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Matthew Somerville Morgan, 1839-1890

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1839
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1890
Place of Death: New York, NY


Matthew Somerville Morgan was an artist and art gallery manager.


Morgan was the manager of the Berners Street Gallery at 14 Berners Street, London. Following the rejection of JW's Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38) by the Royal Academy in April 1862, the painting was exhibited at the Berners Street Gallery in June 1862, where it created a stir [#11977]. It was advertised by the gallery in the Athenaeum as 'Whistler's extraordinary Picture of 'The Woman in White'', a reference to the title of William Wilkie Collin's popular novel The Woman in White (1860). In an earlier number of the Athenaeum F. G. Stephens had also drawn the connection between JW's picture and Collin's novel: 'A woman, in a quaint morning dress of white with her hair about her shoulders, stands alone, in a background of nothing in particular [...] The face is well done, but it is not that of Mr. Wilkie Collins's 'Woman in White.'

Stephens' remarks, together with the advertisement, caused JW to write a letter of denial to the Athenaeum on 1 July 1862: 'May I beg to correct an erroneous impression likely to be confirmed by a paragraph in your last number? The Proprietors of the Berners Street Gallery have, without my sanction, called my picture 'The Woman in White.' I had no intention whatsoever of illustrating Mr. Wilkie Collins's novel; it so happens, indeed, that I have never read it. My painting simply represents a girl dressed in white standing in front of a white curtain' (#13149). Frederick Buckstone, the secretary of Berners Street Gallery, contested JW's claim. On 19 July 1862 he wrote to the editor of the Athenaeum, that JW was well aware that his picture had been advertised as The Woman in White and that he was pleased with the name (#12979).

However, in June 1862 JW described Berners Street Gallery as 'a stunning place', and had hopes of also hanging At the Piano (YMSM 24) there. He further encouraged Edwin Edwards to exhibit his 'sea side picture' there, saying that he would make sure he was well hung. JW also intervened on behalf of Morgan to have Edwards lend the gallery some of his still lifes by Henri Fantin-Latour (#09079).


Stephens, F. G., 'Fine Art Gossip,' The Athenaeum, 28 June 1862, p. 859; Whistler, J. M., Athenaeum, 1 July 1862, p. 23; Buckstone, F., The Athenaeum, 19 July 1862, p. 86; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.