The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Richard D'Oyly Carte, 1844-1901

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1844.05.03
Place of Birth: Greek Street, Soho, London
Date of Death: 1901.04.03
Place of Death:


Richard D'Oyly Carte was an English impresario, promoter of English opera and property developer. He was the eldest son of the well-known flautist Richard Carte and his wife Eliza, the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Jones of the Chapel Royal, Whitehall. His first wife, Blanche Prowse, was the daughter of a piano manufacturer. They had two sons, Lucas (d. 1907), who became a barrister, and Rupert, who became Chairman of the Savoy Hotel, Ltd. In 1888 he married his second wife, Helen Couper-Black [Lenoir], the daughter of the procurator-fiscal of Wigtownshire.


D'Oyly Carte studied at University College, London. He then worked for his father's firm of army musical instrument makers, Rudall, Carte and Co. of Berners Street. He studied music and composed one-act operettas. In 1870 he became a concert agent. He went on to organise the lecture tours of figures such as Oscar Wilde, Archibald Forbes and Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

In 1885 D'Oyly Carte helped to organise Whistler's public reading of the Ten O'Clock lecture delivered on 20 February in Prince's Hall, London. In 1886 a series of newspaper notices announced Whistler's intention of travelling to America, under the management of D'Oyly Carte to deliver the Ten O'Clock lecture to its major cities. This lecture tour never materialised.

In December 1886 Whistler borrowed £500 from D'Oyly Carte, a sum which he then lent to the Society of British Artists. He offered D'Oyly Carte three portraits as security, including Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101) and Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242). Both were still in D'Oyly Carte's possession in April 1887, but were probably redeemed in July 1888.

Whistler made an etching of Helen D'Oyly Carte in 1887/88, Miss Lenoir (K.334). The D'Oyly Cartes' home was one of those decorated by Whistler. In 1895 d'Oyle Carte bought several lithographs by JW from the Fine Art Society.

Richard D'Oyly Carte and Whistler were in correspondence from 1884 to 1896. Following Beatrix Whistler's death in May 1896, Whistler wrote to thank both the D'Oyly Cartes for 'all your delicate care for us' and described them both as 'my two proven friends' (#11178).


Hollingshead, John, My Life Time, London, 1895; L. M., 'Richard D'Oyly Carte', 1912, Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford, 1997 (accessed 23 January 2004); Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Spink, Nesta R., The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, gen. eds Harriet K. Stratis and Martha Tedeschi, Chicago, 1998, p. 177.