The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Henry Woods, 1846-1921

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1846.04.22
Place of Birth: Warrington
Date of Death: 1921.10.27
Place of Death: Venice, Italy


Henry Woods was a genre and landscape painter and illustrator. His sister Fanny (fl. 1873-83; d. 1927) was also an artist and married the painter Luke Fildes.


Woods studied at Warrington School of Art, Lancashire, where he won a travel scholarship. He worked for a time at the South Kensington Schools and for the Graphic. In 1876, at the instigation of his brother-in-law Fildes who had visited Venice in 1876, Woods travelled to Italy and took up residence in Venice. He stayed there until his death in 1921. It was there that he met JW in 1879/80.

Woods was responsible for introducing JW to the Russian landscape and genre painter Roussoff. He wrote to Luke Fildes from Venice: 'They are very happy together and I am very glad'. However, Woods' letters to Fildes were at times unfavourable. He complained that JW borrowed 'money from everybody, and from some who can ill afford to spare it': JW repaid Woods sixty lire before leaving Venice. Woods also wrote that JW was 'the cheekiest scoundrel out [...] I am giving him a wide berth. It's really awful.' However, Woods did enjoy JW's Sunday 'breakfasts' and the hospitality of the American Consulate.

Woods exhibited in London from 1868, showing primarily Venetian subjects from 1877 at venues such as the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Fine Art Society and Arthur Tooth and Sons Gallery, as well as at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery. His paintings include Portrait of a Venetian (Warrington) and Cupid's Spell (Tate Gallery, London). In 1889 he was awarded a bronze medal at the Salon in Paris. Woods was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1882, becoming a full member in 1893, and joined the membership of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1883. He was a member of The Arts Club from 1873 until at least 1920: writing to Helen Whistler in 1880, JW declared that whilst in London Woods could be found every night at The Arts Club (#06690).


Bacher, Otto, With Whistler in Venice, New York, 1908; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Gravers, 8 vols, Paris, 1954-61; Fildes, L. V., Luke Fildes, R.A.: A Victorian Painter, London, 1968; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, London, 2001.