The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

George Washburn Smalley, 1833-1916

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1833.06.02
Place of Birth: Franklin, Norfolk Co., MA
Date of Death: 1916.04.04
Place of Death:


George Washburn Smalley was a journalist and Times correspondent. In 1862 he married Phoebe Garnaut (d. 1923). They separated in 1898.


Smalley made his name as a journalist during the American Civil War, when he was a battlefield correspondent for the New York Tribune, and he established the London office of that paper. His dandyism and ability to adapt himself to aristocratic and Tory circles earned him considerable resentment in America, but admiration in London.

He was the American correspondent to The Times from 1895 until 1906. He was a member of the Beefsteak Club in London, and there socialised with men such as Carlo Pellegrini, Arthur Blouet and Dick Grain, as well as JW. Smalley commented from time to time on JW and his work. He described Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Gold Girl - Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 190) as 'a flimsy piece of work'. According to Smalley, quoted by Mrs Langtry, JW said of Lillie Langtry, who posed for Arrangement in Yellow: Portrait of Lily Langtry (YMSM 227): 'Her beauty is exquisite, but her manner is more exquisite still' and he suggested that she should take up painting.

Smalley wrote supportively to JW on 27 November 1878 following his libel trial with Ruskin: 'I was exceedingly sorry to hear of the verdict, but what can you expect when a lot of cheesemongers & pastry cooks are allowed to sit in judgment on works of rare & delicate art?' (#05460). He followed this by publishing a notice in the New York Tribune on 25 December 1878 in which he sought to raise funds to help pay for the trial expenses. In acknowlegement of his support JW sent him a copy of Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878. The two men remained in correspondence into the 1890s.

In the 1890s Smalley was working for the New York Daily Tribune. When on 26 December 1891 a certain R. C. H., whom JW termed an 'American Ruskin', criticised Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101), recently acquired by the French government, JW suggested to Smalley that he might write an article in his defence expressing what a unique and unprecedented honor was being bestowed upon JW.


Smalley, G. W., 'Mr. Whistler: His Entrance into the Luxembourg...' New York Daily Tribune, 17 January 1892; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Mathews, Joseph J., George W. Smalley: Forty Years a Foreign Correspondent, Chapel Hill, 1973; Baehr, Jr., Harry W., The New York Tribune Since the Civil War, New York, 1936; Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.