The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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William Brassey Hole, 1846-1917

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1846.11.07
Place of Birth: Salisbury
Date of Death: 1917.10.22
Place of Death: Edinburgh


William Brassey Hole was a painter and etcher.


Hole was made an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1878 and a full member in 1889. In 1885 he was elected a member of both the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours. He was a regular exhibitor, showing with these societies as well as with the Royal Academy, Fine Art Society and Connell and Sons Gallery in London. He also exhibited with the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Royal Hibernian Society, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery.

On 6 October 1884 Hole wrote to the Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh, in order to drum up public support for G. R. Halkett's suggestion that the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland should purchase JW's Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137). He declared, 'The picture is one of the best examples of a master who, at his best, and within his own limits, is almost beyond criticism, and, considering the great advance in art knowledge made of late years in Scotland, there are few, I think, who have given the work careful study and thought, who will not endorse the opinion already formed by many of the best critics at home and abroad that Whistler's "Carlyle" is one of the noblest examples of modern portraiture that its possession, therefore, would add lustre to any art gallery, and that i[t]s subject renders the national collection of Scotland its most fitting resting place' (#11749). Unfortunately it was reported to JW that the subscription paper disclaimed all approval of JW's art and theories on the part of the subscribers. An indignant JW wrote to Edinburgh that the price of Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) had been raised to one thousand guineas.

In 1894 Hole was commissioned to reproduce JW's portrait of the Comte de Montesquiou, Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (YMSM 398), for the Art Journal. He also carried out a further engraving of a portrait of JW, Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122), for the Art Journal in October 1897.


'Art and Mr. Whistler', Art Journal, December 1894, pp. 358-60; 'Some Early Pictures by Mr. Whistler', Art Journal, October 1897, pp. 289-90; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Johnson, J., and Anna Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980.