The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Graham, William (1817-1885)
Record 10 of 17

System Number: 01954
Date: 2 May 1880[1]
Author: JW
Place: Venice[2]
Recipient: Charles James Whistler Hanson[3]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H55
Document Type: ALS

[hand-coloured engraving]

My dear little Charley -

I am very much pleased with your pretty letter which proves to me what an industrious nice little gentleman you have been during my long absence. - much longer has it turned out to be than ever I looked forward to - and very anxious am I to get back to you all and hear all the good accounts of you from Auntie Jo[5] and see the tall fellow you have grown - It was very kind in you to send your first letter[6] to me and very much I value it and shall put it [p. 2] away with my treasures - I send you in return a picture of this beautiful city - which much as I am charmed with it, I shall be only too glad to leave at last - possibly I hope within another week or two - but one of these days perhaps I may bring you out here and show you all the lovely things it contains. We will take a row in a gondola - one of the long black boats you see in the corner of the picture and which I think I have drawn better myself! - however you shall judge when you see my etchings and pastels - If your uncle Charley[7] come too, I will [p. 3] teach him how to manage a Gondola - very different it is to his outrigger - and two or three Americans[8] who have tried that sort of thing have fallen off into the canal! - I should have been home long ago had it not been for the terrible winter[9] which has prevented my working - the weather has been of a severity unknown for centuries - snow and cold which has now given place to wind and rain so that I am still prevented completing my plates - Tell uncle Charlie what I am sure he will be pleased to hear that notwithstanding all this, I have worked very hard, and bring back with me a perfect gallery of beautiful pastel[10] drawings - about sixty in all - which I fancy will represent nearly a thousand pounds! - The frames[11] are already ordered and by this time probably made in London - where the collection will doubtless be exhibited - probably at the Fine Arts Society[12] in Bond Street - Every body who has seen them here is very much struck by them and all [p. 4] acknowledge that I have found some thing quite new and entirely different from any views of Venice ever done before - Also the etchings[13] are much finer and more important than the old ones - so that we may hope for a success at last that will repay for all this time and trouble -

I am so glad my dear boy to know that you are doing so well with your studies and are so obedient and attentive to your kind Auntie Jo - Tell her with my love that she must expect a letter[14] from me at once - as I shall write tomorrow - indeed often would I have written to you all had I not each day been such a slave to my work[15] - I get up Charlie every morning at six and labor away until dark. - and now my dear boy with much love to you all

Goodbye - Your fond papa

J A McN. Whistler -

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


Master Charlie Hanson
5. Thistle Grove Lane[16]
Fulham Road
Brompton -
London -
[postmark:] VENEZ[IA][17] 2 / 5 - 80 / 5 S


1.  2 May 1880
Dated from postmark.

2.  Venice
JW arrived in Venice in September 1879 and left in October 1880.

3.  Charles James Whistler Hanson
Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), engineer, son of JW and Louisa Fanny Hanson [more]. This letter was published in MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001, pp. 149-50, no. 12.

4.  Riva degli Schiavoni
The engraving is not signed. It shows the Doge's palace and the column etched by JW in The Piazzetta (K.189). JW's etchings The Riva, No.1 (K.192) and The Riva, No.2 (K.206) were drawn from the eastern end of the Riva, looking back towards the palace.

5.  Jo
Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more]. They parted amicably about 1867, but she seems to have looked after Hanson for some time.

6.  first letter
The letter from Hanson has not survived.

7.  Charley
Charles James Singleton, Jr (1841-1918), accountant [more].

8.  Americans
Resident Americans included William Graham (1841-1910), artist [more], and Ross Sterling Turner (1847-1915), artist [more]. A group of American students arrived in the early summer of 1880 with Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

9.  winter
It was exceptionally cold in Venice from December through to March.

10.  pastel
In all JW drew some ninety pastels in Venice (M.727-28, 734, 737-79, 782-88, 790-96, 799-828), the majority, according to this letter, during the winter of 1879-1880. T. Way's letter to JW of 1 May 1880 mentions the packing of pastels for the return journey (#06082). At least fifty pastels were numbered ready to be packed.

11.  frames
On 1 October 1880 Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more], complained that JW had ordered frames from the Fine Art Society but failed to return them (#01109).

12.  Fine Arts Society
The Fine Art Society, London art dealers, commissioned JW to make a set of twelve etchings of Venice.

13.  etchings
JW's etchings of Venice (K.183-232, 240) were published in two sets. The first Venice set of twelve etchings, Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5), was published by the Fine Art Society in 1880. The second, A Set of twenty-six etchings of Venice, 1886 (the second 'Venice set') (K.196-216, 233-237). (excat 6), was published by Messrs Dowdeswell in 1886 (plus five non-Venetian scenes, K.233-237).

14.  letter
No letters to Joanna Hiffernan have survived.

15.  work
JW mentioned his long working hours to Helen Whistler on 22 March 1880 (#06688).

16.  5. Thistle Grove Lane
This was the house of Charles James Singleton, Jr (1841-1918), accountant [more], and Bridget Agnes Hiffernan (1844/1845-after 1919), mistress and later wife of C. J. Singleton, and sister of Joanna Hiffernan [more]. Joanna may have been visiting her sister. Thistle Grove is just off the Old Brompton Road, about a mile from the South Kensington Museums.

17.  VENEZ[IA]
Part of the postmark is missing, and paper torn, where the stamp has been removed.