The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to search results

Documents associated with: Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874
Record 15 of 71

System Number: 11384
Date: 10 June 1874
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Editor of The Hour[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PL[2]



I have read the intelligent remarks of your critic upon my pictures[3], and am happy to be able to remove, I think, the "melancholy" impression left upon his mind by the supposition that "the best works are not of recent date." Permit me to reassure him, for the paintings he speaks of in glowing terms - notably "the full-length portrait of a young girl[4]," which he overwhelms me by comparing to Velasquez[5], as well as the two life-size portraits in black[6], "in which there is an almost entire negation of colour" (though I, who am, he says, a colourist, did not know it) - are my latest works, and but just completed.

May I still further correct a misconception? The etchings and dry-points[7] in the gallery do not form a complete set. There are only 50 exhibited, making about half the number I have executed.

Again, it was from no feeling that "my works were not seen to advantage when placed in juxtaposition with those of an essentially different kind," that I "determined to have an exhibition of my own, where [no] discordant elements should distract the spectator's attention." It is true that occasionally it has been borne in upon my mind that those whose "works are of an essentially different kind" are unwilling to place mine in juxtaposition with their own.

My wish has been, though, to prove that the place in which works of art are shown may be made as free from "discordant elements which distract the spectators' attention" as the works themselves.

Marvelling greatly that the "principle" that has led me (in his eyes at least) to paint so that he speaks of me in the same breath with Velasquez, should be "founded on fallacy," -

I remain, sir, your obedient servant,

[butterfly signature]

June 10, 1874.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.   Editor of the Hour
The Hour was a little known London journal, published between 24 March 1873 and 11 August 1876.

2.   PL
'MR WHISTLER'S PICTURES', The Hour, June 11 1874, p. 7; reprinted in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 47-48, under the heading '"Confidences" with an Editor.' This transcription is taken from the latter; there were a few minor variations in punctuation in the original, 'occasionally' read 'necessarily', and the letter was signed 'J.A.McN. WHISTLER / 48 Pall Mall, June 10'. A copy of the original letter in an unknown hand, as published, is #02625. See Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, p. 27 (B. 4), p. 275 (L.1a).

3.  pictures
Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874. A copy of the review from The Hour was kept by JW (GUL Whistler pc1, p. 71).

4.  portrait of a young girl
Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129) was exhibited as 'Portrait, "Harmony in Grey and Green"' (cat. no. 5).

5.  Velasquez
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more].

6.   portraits in black
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97), and Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth (YMSM 125) were exhibited as 'Portrait, "Arrangement in Black"' and 'Portrait, "Arrangement in Black, No 2"' respectively (cat. nos. 1 and 3).

7.  etchings and dry-points
Each medium was catalogued separately. The fifty prints included etchings from both the 'French Set' and 'Thames Set'. Several recent drypoint portraits were untitled, but probably included portraits of the Leylands, such as The Velvet Dress (K.105).