The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 4th [Exhibition], Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1894
Record 2 of 35

System Number: 00705
Date: [26 October 1893][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: John James Cowan[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C206
Document Type: ALS

'Oct 26. 1893'

110. Rue du Bac. Paris.

Dear Mr Cowan -

"A bargain[3]" I myself have I fear always looked upon as a very unfair or tiresome (which is quite the same!) advantage if it be ever urged as a reason for anything not readily forthcoming! -

You know how "The Colonel[4]" would have been greatly surprised had he been called to account because of a bargain! -

I was charmed to think that you liked the pastels[5] - and delighted to know that one [p. 2] of these days you wished to put one of them in your drawing room among your possessions -

When that day comes we will look out a pretty one together - or do you another -

Meanwhile I am only sorry indeed that you should have had trouble of any kind to annoy you - to say nothing [of] the bad news about your sons[6] health -

We think that the bad food of Brittany must have produced its ill effect upon him, as certainly my brother[7] the doctor, who has been lately staying with us, told us it did upon ourselves - We trust that by now he is rapidly recovering and that you and Mrs Cowan[8] will soon have no further anxiety about him -

I am very glad to hear of the success of Lavery's picture[9] - that's all right! - and I hope I shall see it -

Will you not be sending it to the Champ de Mars[10] here this next spring -

We think of going to Cornwall for Christmas - probably stay a couple of weeks or more, if it is warm - for as you see we didn't get off to Venice -

The fact is I took a liking to the Studio[11] and have been working there ever since -

When do you think [p. 3] you will run over to see the Brothers Davenport[12] again - and me?! - and how is their young patient who had so much of them? -

Give our kindest regards & remembrances to Mrs Cowan and say that we hope yet to see her in Paris this Spring -

Always sincerely

J McNeill Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [26 October 1893]
The date was inserted by Cowan at the top of p. 1. This was presumably the date that he received the letter.

2.  John James Cowan
John James Cowan (1846-1936), paper manufacturer and collector [more].

3.  A bargain
Presumably JW is referring to Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan (YMSM 402), for which he had received a cheque for 600 guineas on 23 June 1893. Cowan had recently been sitting for JW in Paris. The picture was never finished although he gave JW sixty sittings between 1893 and 1900. See Cowan, John J., From 1846-1932, Edinburgh, 1933, pp. 156-57, 168-73.

4.  The Colonel
JW may be referring to a work of fiction. One possibility is that he is referring to Colonel Thomas Newcombe of the Indian army, in Thackeray's The Newcombes, serialised London, 1853-1855. He was a simple-minded gentleman, guided through life solely by the sentiments of duty and honour, who died in poverty. Alternatively, JW may be referring to a story about the Southern States of America, by George William Bagby (1828-1883), Virginian writer of sentimental ante-bellum stories (see JW to R. Birnie Philip, [18 January 1901], #04785).

5.  pastels
Possibly Nude with parasol (M.446) and A nude study (M.451).

6.  sons
Allister Cowan (b. 1873), son of the collector J. J. Cowan [more], had a bad attack of typhoid, and he went on a trip to Australia and Canada with his father for six months in 1894 to recuperate.

7.  brother
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

8.  Mrs Cowan
Sophy Cowan (b. ca 1850), née Gillespie, wife of J. J. Cowan [more].

9.  Lavery's picture
John Lavery (1856-1941), painter [more], had painted a family portrait: J. Lavery, Mrs John James Cowan and Her Daughter Laura (z284) (Cowan 1933, op. cit., repr. f. p. 128).

10.  Champ des Mars
That is, the 4th Exhibition, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1894.

11.  Studio
JW's studio was at 186 rue Notre Dames des Champs.

12.  Brothers Davenport
Dr Isaac Burnet Davenport (fl. 1890-1900), dentist in Paris [more], and Dr William Slocum Davenport (1868-1938), JW's Paris dentist [more], who shared a practice at 30 Avenue de l'Opera in 1893, 1894 and 1896. Cowan relates how JW recommended the Davenport Brothers: 'he told me their operating was just like the flutter of a butterfly in his mouth', Cowan 1933, op. cit., p. 85.