The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to search results

Documents associated with: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884
Record 17 of 69

System Number: 04032
Date: [March 1884/1886][1]
Author: Mortimer Luddington Menpes[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London?]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M303
Document Type: ALS

Osborn Lodge.

My dear Master.

I posted your letter directly I arrived, but 20 minutes too late to wire - I put it off the next morning until I got away from Fulham -

I delivered your letter with the lonely sovereign & then felt I had completed my work.

I was really surprised at the oil sketches[3] I saw, so much nearer what one sees in nature than two thirds of the rubbish exhibited, & with such ease.

[p. 2] You rather spoil me for the society of others, my little trip has had a bad influence in this direction people seem dull & to be living without any definite aim - I am proud at having had the chance of knowing you as I do, & grateful too.

I see better the folly of dreaming away a life with sickly notions of breadth - You interest yourself in everything no matter how insignificant & yet never loose [sic] sight of the big thing -

I suppose in life the same as in pictures breadth [p. 3] without detail means Emptiness Emptiness (Corot[4]) & detail alone means hell (Frith[5]).

I am getting rather mixed & perhaps on the whole it would be wise to finish up. -

Remember me kindly to Sickert[6]
Regards Yours sincerely

M. L. Menpes -

P. S. I left behind the black pen in a case, will you please bring it with you
['M M'?]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [March 1884/1886]
Menpes acted as JW's pupil and assistant, calling him 'Master' as in this letter, from about 1883 to 1888. In January 1884, he and Sickert went to St Ives with JW and this might be the 'trip' alluded to. Many of JW's small oils from the trip were exhibited at 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884. References to 'studies', however, might suggest a slightly later date (see below).

2.  Mortimer Luddington Menpes
Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938), artist [more].

3.  oil sketches
Menpes' tone suggests he was seeing these 'oil sketches' for the first time. They may have been the studies known as the 'The Six Projects' (YMSM 82-87) (excat 11), which were started in the later 1860s. It seems that JW retrieved them some time after his bankruptcy in 1879. J. E. Blanche remembered seeing them in JW's studio about 1884, and Malcolm Salaman saw them there in June 1886 (Blanche, Jacques-Emile, 'James McNeill Whistler,' Renaissance Latine, June 1905, pp. 353-78, p. 360; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 148-50, 258, vol. II, p. 26).

4.  Corot
Camille Corot (1796-1875), painter [more].

5.  Frith
William Powell Frith (1819-1909), genre and landscape painter [more].

6.  Sickert
Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), artist and writer on art [more].