The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Henry Quilter, 1851-1907

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1851.01.24
Place of Birth: Lower Norwood
Date of Death: 1907.07.10
Place of Death: 42 Queens Gate Gardens, London


Henry ('Arry') Quilter was an English barrister, artist, art critic and author. He was the son of William Quilter of Quilter, Ball and Co. In 1890 he married Mary Constance Hill.


Quilter studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and then at the Slade School of Art. He went on to study in Rome under an Italian sculptor and in Bruges under Van Hove, a portrait painter. He also studied for a time in France and Germany. In England he worked for a short period under Alphonse Legros at University College, Cambridge. He also travelled for a year in the East, where he studied Arabian, Indian, Chinese and Japanese art. He was the first President of the Society of Accountants.

Quilter contributed essays and reviews on art to a number of important magazines and journals. He was on the editorial staff of both the Spectator and the Times, acting as art critic for the former from 1876 to 1886 and for the latter from 1880 to 1881. He founded the Universal Review in May 1888, the affairs of which he conducted single-handedly until December 1890. In September 1900 Quilter brought out a guide book to modern life entitled What's What, a title suggested by his wife. It contained 2500 articles, a third of which were by Quilter.

In 1879 he wrote a critical life of Giotto, of which two editions were published, dealing with his place in ancient art, and the authenticity of the various works assigned to him by Cavalcaselle and Ruskin. The book was illustrated by himself. Quilter gave many lectures on art at working men's clubs and colleges in London and in the major provincial towns from 1880 to 1889.

Quilter made his exhibition debut at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1884. He also undertook decorative wall schemes, experimented with copper-plate etching, designed book illustrations and drew for the Graphic.

In 1889 Quilter edited George Meredith's Jump to Glory Jane. He also brought out an anonymous book of his own poems.

Whistler's White House on Tite Street, which had been designed by E. W. Godwin in 1877, was sold at auction to Quilter on 18 September 1879 for £27,000 following Whistler's bankruptcy. Quilter altered the house by raising the front facade to two stories and obscuring much of the green tiled roof, therefore destroying the visual rhythm of the original design.

In 1886 Quilter put himself forward for the post of Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cambridge. On 17 February 1886 the news of Quilter's candidature reached Edmond Yates's 'Atlas' column in the World and he challenged Whistler to respond. JW responded with enthusiasm and sent two mocking letters to 'Atlas,' one of them quoting extracts from this testimonial.


Quilter, Harry, Giotto, London, 1879; Quilter, H., Sententiae Artis, London, 1880; Quilter, H., Art and Life, London, 1880; Quilter, H., Is Marriage a Failure?, London 1889; Quilter, H., Mr Stanley as Hero, London, 1890; Quilter, H., Preferences in Art, Life and Literature, London, 1892; 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.