The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Whistler, Helen
Record 23 of 149

System Number: 06695
Date: [16 December 1881][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W689
Document Type: ALS[3]

My dear Nellie -

It all comes of not doing exactly as I understood it should be -

If the first coat[4] had been as I directed - grey brown - this too crude and glaring condition of the yellow would not have occured [sic] -

It is just because of the horrid white ground - Also why on earth should the workmen think for themselves that after all two coats of the yellow upon white would do just as well as one coat of yellow [p. 2] on grey! - This was so ordered by me because in my experience the result would have been fair and at the same time soft and sweet -

However it is not for the purpose of boring you my dear Nellie that I write all this, only I am just a little disappointed because I thought I had done nicely the matter you wished me to manage - and now it is most impossible for me to get up today or tomorrow - for I have the old boy[5] and Mrs Forster[6] without intermission upon my hands -

Now listen -

See that the man gets a tube of "Ivory black" from any colorman's and a tube of "raw Sienna"

Let him put first about a salt spoon full of the Ivory black into his pot of yellow paint, 'mix well - and stir' - then this will lower the moral tone of that yellow! - but you must not be alarmed if to your over anxious eyes it even looks a little green - all the better -

Then mix and stir in say half of the tube of raw Sienna - and I should think you would [p. 3] bring things to their natural harmony - If not quite satisfied - try then another salt spoon of black - and the other half of the tube of Raw Sienna - 'mix to taste' - Dont be afraid - you are well started - and dont be shocked if the first little daub of this new mixture looks dirty on the bright yellow coat already on the wall - Of course it will - but remember that brightness is what you wish to be rid of - also remember that when the second coat is all over the wall you will only see the second coat! - You can't make any mistake - it is not like the distemper business, because here you see exactly what you are about in the pot! -

Que Dieu vous garde![7] -

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


Mrs W. McNeill Whistler -
28. Wimpole Street.
Cavendish Square
[postmark:] LONDON W. / 7 / DE 16 / 81


1.  [16 December 1881]
Dated from the postmark.

2.  Helen Euphrosyne Whistler
Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917), née Ellen Ionides, JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  ALS
'No 19' is written in another hand at the top of p. 1. Published in Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, pp. 72-73, no. 27.

4.  first coat
This letter concerns JW's design for a decorative scheme at the Whistlers' home at 28 Wimpole Street. See also JW to H. Whistler, #06694.

5.  old boy
Sir Henry ('King') Cole (1808-1882), civil servant and museum director [more]; he was posing for Portrait of Sir Henry Cole (YMSM 233).

6.  Mrs Forster
Amy Leslie Forster (b. ca 1853), née Worth [more], was posing for Portrait of Mrs Forster (YMSM 234). See also Sickert, Walter Richard, 'The New Life of Whistler,' The Fortnightly Review, December 1908, p. 1027. Whistler appears to have had a good relationship with the Forsters and about this time drew a portrait of their daughter, Yvonne Isabella Forster (b. 1877), later the wife of Henry Dyson [more] (Portrait of Miss Yvonne Forster (M.838)).

7.  Que Dieu vous garde!
Fr., May God protect you!