UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Frederick Buckstone, ca 1838-??

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1838 ca
Place of Birth: Brompton. Middlesex
Date of Death:
Place of Death:

Identity:

Frederick Buckstone was the secretary of Morgan's Gallery at 14 Berners Street, London. In 1881 he was recorded as a landscape artist, living at 10 South Crescent, London.

Life:

Whistler's Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38) was rejected by the Royal Academy in April 1862. It nevertheless created a stir when it was exhibited at the Berners Street Gallery in June 1862 [#11977]. It was advertised by the gallery in the Athenaeum as 'Whistler's extraordinary Picture of 'The Woman in White'', a reference to the title of William Wilkie Collin's popular novel The Woman in White (London, 1860). In an earlier number of the Athenaeum F. G. Stephens had also drawn the connection between Whistler's picture and Collin's novel: 'A woman, in a quaint morning dress of white with her hair about her shoulders, stands alone, in a background of nothing in particular [...] The face is well done, but it is not that of Mr. Wilkie Collins's 'Woman in White.'

Stephens' remarks, together with the advertisement, caused Whistler to write a letter of denial to the Athenaeum on 1 July 1862: 'May I beg to correct an erroneous impression likely to be confirmed by a paragraph in your last number? The Proprietors of the Berners Street Gallery have, without my sanction, called my picture 'The Woman in White.' I had no intention whatsoever of illustrating Mr. Wilkie Collins's novel; it so happens, indeed, that I have never read it. My painting simply represents a girl dressed in white standing in front of a white curtain' (#13149).

However, Buckstone contested Whistler's claim. On 19 July 1862 he wrote to the editor of the Athenaeum, that Whistler was well aware that his picture had been advertised as The Woman in White and that he was pleased with the name. 'There was no intention,' Mr. Buckstone declared, 'to mislead the public by the supposition that it referred to the heroine of Mr. Wilkie Collins' novel; but being the figure of a female attired in white, with a white background, with which no-colour the artist has produced some original effects, the picture was called 'The Woman in White,' simply because it could not be called 'The Woman in Black,' or any other colour' (#12979).

Bibliography:

UK census 1881, from http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004); Stephens, F. G., 'Fine Art Gossip,' The Athenaeum, 28 June 1862, p. 859; Whistler, J. M., Athenaeum, 1 July 1862, p. 23; Buckstone, F., The Athenaeum, 19 July 1862, p. 86; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.