The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Boehm, Joseph Edgar
Record 6 of 36

System Number: 00320
Date: 25 October 1878
Author: Joseph Edgar Böehm[1]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler B96
Document Type: ALS


25th Octbr 1878

My dear Whistler

Mr. Gilbert R. Frith[2] of Staunton Virginia has written a short time ago to my Foundry "Messr. Young & Co[3]. Pimlico." to ascertain the cost of carting a colossal equestrian Statue of the late General Lee[4] - from the letter I could not quite make out whether they intend to have the Statue modelled here, or whether [p. 2] they would supply a plaster model to the foundry in case they accept the estimate. As none of the american Sculptors in Rome care to descend to modern portraiture, costume or horses - but like to soar up high in the grandest Spheare [sic] of ideal Art - (in which they approach nearer the Greeks than the romans[5]) [p. 3] I think there is some hope that Virginia might employ me - if anybody like you - (& nobody could do so - better), would speak a word for me at the right quarters - You know that I have done many equestrian works & if you should happen to know anyone who has any influence in this matter I should be very [p. 4] glad if you could find out for me further details -

We sent out with the estimates a Photograph of my last Statue of the Prince of Wales[6] for Bombay - now in the Paris Exhibition[7] & for which I received the medal there - I should like to have a work in America & would not make you blush at your introduction -

Believe me
yours sincerely

J E Boehm

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1.  Joseph Edgar Böehm
Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), sculptor [more]. A draft of JW's response, in the form of a letter to G. W. C. Lee, is #02504.

2.  Mr. Gilbert R. Frith
Gilbert R. Frith, unidentified. Staunton is on the Shenandoah, north of Lexington.

3.  Young & Co
H. Young and Co., Eccleston Iron Works, Pimlico, London, cast everything from bridge girders to bronze statues. They had cast the lamp standards along Chelsea Embankment, the sphinxes for Cleopatra's Needle on Victoria Embankment, and statues for Boehm (see below).

4.  General Lee
General Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870), Superintendant of USMA, West Point, and later Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate States of America [more].

5.  nearer the Greeks than the roman
According to Meynell, Boehm protested 'against the insipidities of the school of Canova, which, though professing altogether Greek traditions and working on Greek subjects, had neither Greek sublimity nor truth to nature, but resembles nothing so much as the Roman art of the decadence. According to Mr. Boehm, we cannot be Greeks, for we have no mythology. Our art must be Christian and modern. "It is vain to complain of the paucity of inspiring subjects in our age, of our ugly costume and the dearth of suitable figures for sculpture. You may regard objects and compose like Homer, but you may not inanely copy the antique. Do not return from Rome with some more bad nymphs, another Venus or another Cupid. Try to use the much-abused dress. Treat a coat-sleeve, a woman's gown, con amore, ennoble it by art, and it will be a pleasing object in the sight of those whose praise is worth having."' (W. Meynell, 'Our Living Artists - Joseph Edgar Boehm, A.R.A.', Magazine of Art, III, 1880, p. 335).

6.  Statue of the Prince of Wales
H. Young and Co. cast the 'Prince of Wales Colossal Statue Erected in Bombay' (advert, Kelly's London Postal Directory, 1881, p. 125). Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for Boehm's work led to some forty royal commissions, and to his appointment as Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in 1880. His royal pupils included Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), Marchioness of Lorne, sculptress [more].

7.  Paris Exhibition
Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1878.