The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 00731
Date: 19 May 1899
Author: John James Cowan[1]
Place: Edinburgh
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C232
Document Type: ALS


19th May 1899

My dear Whistler,

It was D. C. Thomson[2] who offered me £1000 St[erlin]g thro' Brown[3] for the Piano Picture[4].

D. C. Thomson is here now trying to get the picture from me!

He began by offering an advance of £200 & I said I wouldn't think of anything less than £2000, & even that might not induce me to part with it. He has communicated with his client[5] (I don't know who it is, but you will probably).

He recently sold him 3 of [p. 2] your pictures - (one being the little White Girl[6]?)

He has given me an offer open until Monday of £1800 Stg, which is tempting from a purely commercial point of view.

From having been in business all my life I suppose I have more commercial spirit than a lover of art ought to have!

But if I let the picture go I shall be awfully sorry to part with it. I have nothing to compare with it, & I fear rather a mixed lot of pictures in its company - some good & some rubbish. Perhaps [p. 3] you would rather it went alongside these other pictures I speak of that the unknown offerer has?

Thomson is trying his best & says £1800 is an exceptional price just now

I am game to refuse this figure or £2000 Stg if you would rather I did so.

Only you would need to send me a wire on Monday morning, as Thomson comes here on that afternoon.

I haven't yet seen the Baronet & the Butterfly[7]!

Always Your's Sincerely

J. J. Cowan

I do wish the Portrait[8] would turn up! When am I to see it?

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

2.  D. C. Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more].

3.  Brown
Possibly Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more].

4.  Piano Picture
At the Piano (YMSM 24) was then owned by Cowan.

5.  client
Edmund Francis Davis (b. 1845), attorney [more], purchased the picture for £2800 or possibly £3000.

6.  little White Girl
Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52).

7.  Baronet & the Butterfly
On 13 May 1899 JW published an account of his dispute with Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], over Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408): Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24].

8.  Portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan (YMSM 402).