The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 00734
Date: [30 May 1899][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: John James Cowan[2]
Place: [Edinburgh]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C235
Document Type: ALS[3]


My dear Cowan.

Why be in a hurry?

I would just drop Thomson[4] - and take things quietly.

If you will wait, you will see it will all come right - and you will be getting a collection of choice [p. 2] and altogether much more worth your while than would be this gathering in from dealers the past floating possessions of other mens galleries

Moreover all this is coming very much sooner than I pretend.

However of that bye and bye - when we meet.

This picture of the pier I fancy must be the "Nocturne Valparaiso"[5] - very beautiful certainly - but so they all are in time! it just takes a few years with each to perceive this! Look for instance at the way in which the "Times" speaks now with reproachful appreciation of the full length portraits - Miss Alexander[6], etc.!!!

I have made an extract that will amuse you in the little Catalogue[7] I am posting to you.

Well then this Valparaiso Nocturne, has belonged to several - sold over and again.

The last owner was Wm McCullough[8] - the rich man from somewhere - and I should think he would want a very stiff price -

Well, what's the use -

My advice is wait - Now your Thames[9] is quite enough

and we will borrow it for the Exposition[10] here - n'est-ce pas?

I have lots of things to say to you when I see you

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  [30 May 1899]
The date '30/5/99' is inserted at the top of p. 3 in another hand.

3.  ALS
Written on deep bordered mourning paper.

4.  Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more]. Thomson was attempting to negotiate the sale of YMSM 24. See J. J. Cowan to JW, #00731.

5.  'Nocturne Valparaiso'
JW had confused Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76) with Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105), believing it to be the painting referred to by Cowan in an earlier letter, #00732. Thomson had offered Cowan YMSM 105 in the aftermath of the negotiations over At the Piano (YMSM 24). Cowan described the picture to JW as 'the shape of the Thames in Ice of a pier with some small figures in foreground.' In fact he meant Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105). Cowan purchased the picture for £700 (see J. J. Cowan to JW, 1 June 1899, #00735).

6.  Miss Alexander
Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129).

7.  Catalogue
Of 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899.

8.  Wm McCullough
George McCulloch (1848-1907), collector [more]. The first owner of Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76) was Captain Henry Hill (1818-1882), collector [more]; after his death in 1889, it was bought by Alexander ('Aleco') Ionides (1840-1898), businessman [more]. In 1892, Ionides sold it to Sir John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908), QC, collector [more], who sold it to McCulloch.

9.  Thames
The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36), also owned by Cowan.

10.  exposition
The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) was exhibited at the 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899 (cat. no. 175) . The exhibition opened on 7 May 1899.