The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Cowan, Sophy
Record 15 of 22

System Number: 00719
Date: [19 November 1896][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: John James Cowan[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C220
Document Type: ALS[3]

'19 Nov 1896'

8. Fitzroy Street. Fitzroy Sqr

I cannot resist, my dear Cowan, sending you a line, though in mad haste, with late at dinner staring me in the face! - a line just to say charming you are! - .

And in these days when Gentlemen are rare - and "Valentines"[4] are current in the best Society, I think you and I may be permitted to shake hands even [p. 2] at this distance - - I shall now go and drink your health immediately -

As to the portrait[5], if like me, you cannot forgive, you must me forget! and promise never to say another word about the trouble we have both taken -

If when at length it hangs in your house, Mrs. Cowan[6] thinks it looks at all like my distinguished friend her husband, I shall be more than delighted and probably not venture to be just, and offer him golden guineas for the endless sittings I undoubtedly owe so uncomplaining a model! -

Off I must run now - and all about Walter Sickert[7] - & the Baronet - and the Portrait Painter Society[8] next time -

With kindest regards
Always sincerely

[butterfly signature]

I hear the game has come!! Most excellent!

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [19 November 1896]
Date inserted at the top of the sheet in what appears to be Cowan's hand.

2.  John James Cowan
John James Cowan (1846-1936), paper manufacturer and collector [more].

3.  ALS
The paper has a deep mourning border.

4.  'Valentines'
A reference to JW's ongoing dispute with Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], over Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). The 'Valentine' is an allusion by JW to the original cheque for 100 guineas paid by Eden for the portrait on 14 February 1894. Dissatisfied with the portrait, JW refused to hand it over to Eden believing it the artist's right to withhold a picture in such circumstances. When Eden instituted legal proceedings against him in November 1894, JW returned all monies that had been paid to him. However, the dispute dragged on until December 1897 when JW was permitted by the Cour de Cessation in Paris to keep the picture provided that he did not make use of it. In 1899, JW published his account of the affair in Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24]. Eden is referred to again elsewhere in this letter as the 'Baronet.'

5.  portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan (YMSM 402). JW begun the portrait in 1893 but despite numerous sittings from Cowan over the next few years, it was never completed.

6.  Mrs. Cowan
Sophy Cowan (b. ca 1850), née Gillespie, wife of J. J. Cowan [more].

7.  Walter Sickert
Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), artist and writer on art [more]. He had been seen with Eden, which annoyed JW (see #05445).

8.  Portrait Painter Society
JW's proposed catalogue entry for Rose and Silver: Portrait of Mrs Whibley (M.1415) was an oblique reference to Sir W. Eden and Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408), and was not acceptable to the organisers of the 6th Exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1896.