The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 00736
Date: [2/7 June 1899][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: John James Cowan[2]
Place: [Edinburgh]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C237
Document Type: ALS[3]

My dear Cowan -

I remember the picture[4] of course and full of quality it is - but I do wish you would just not be in such a hurry to commit yourself to these dealers.

Why give Thomson[5] the satisfaction of first discovering, for you, a work [p. 2] and then making a mighty good business of it for himself, and the British Peer, too!

That picture first belonged to Louis Huth[6], millionaire in the City, who passed it on to Cyril Flower[7] (now Battersea).

I was given for it perhaps 50, or possibly 30 guineas, and the noble Lord has not done badly on my brains!

But why not leave these former works alone - Of course they have all now achieved their recognition - and are all in the "many hundreds" - but the lesson they teach is quite unperceived by the dealers clients! -

Each new work is received in absolutely the same spirit of antagonism and deprecation, with which the earlier ones were welcomed - (Look at this moment's Catalogue[8] I sent you!) -

And as the dealers have never had any relations of importance with me - and now it is too late, they naturally, as far as they dare, encourage the feeling that [p. 3] gives them a chance in turning over an[d] over again, among their clients, the old works, the only Whistlers they can get hold of - Voila [sic].

You are told that your little "Lillie, in our Alley"[9] is ugly! or dirty etc. -. . It is a beauty - But by and bye [sic] they will come want to do business with you and it!! -

But you shall have better directly and the Lilly I will take back in lieu of anything prettier you may prefer[10].

I envied you as you were kind enough to say I might, for I believe they are devoted to me[11] in Venice.

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [2/7 June 1899]
This is a reply to Cowan's letter of 1 June 1899, #00735.

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

3.  ALS
Written on deep bordered mourning paper.

4.  picture
Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105). In an earlier letter (#00734), JW had confused this with Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76).

5.  Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more]. Thomson had recently pursuaded Cowan to part with At the Piano (YMSM 24) for £2000 (see J. J. Cowan to R. Birnie Philip, #00733).

6.  Louis Huth
Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more].

7.  Cyril Flower
Cyril Flower (1843-1907), barrister, Liberal MP, 1st Baron Battersea [more], later Lord Battersea. He had sold Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105) to Cowan through the dealers Agnew on 29 May 1899.

8.  Catalogue
JW had included earlier reviews in the catalogue for the 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899.

9.  'Lillie in our Alley'
Brown and Gold: Lillie 'In our Alley!' (YMSM 464). Cowan had purchased the picture from JW in January 1899 (J. J. Cowan to JW, #00727). JW issued a receipt for this portrait and another picture, Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Chelsea Snow (YMSM 174), on 8 February (#00729).

10.  prettier you may prefer
Written at right-angles to the main text in the left-hand margin.

11.  I wired ... [butterfly signature]
Written at right-angles to the main text in the left-hand margin on p. 1. The Venice reference is to the committee of the III Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, 22 April to 31 October 1899, which had asked to borrow JW's works (see JW to J. J. Cowan, #00728, #00730). Cowan lent La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50) and The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) (see J. J. Cowan to JW, #00738).