The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 00738
Date: 28 December 1899
Author: John James Cowan[1]
Place: Edinburgh
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C239
Document Type: ALS


28th Decr. 1899

My dear Whistler,

I got a very nice letter[2] from you after I committed the never-to-be wiped out crime of parting with the Piano picture[3]. I was & am very grateful to you for some good advice, & I have been fighting shy of the dealers.

All the same, but for them or one of them, I never would have owned the "Piano" & the "Thames in Ice"[4]. I don't want to buy another picture until you let me have my portrait[5] the price of which I fully recognize [p. 2] has yet to be fixed by the artist.

Can I do anything to expedite matters?

I have never got back the "Thames in Ice" from Venice[6], and I saw the "Princess of Porcelain[7]" which had then come back a month ago in London! I hope it will turn up all right. When I enquired they said they had sent it by Petite Vitesse[8]. I shall not want to lend them pictures again!

I have of late made the acquaintance of an old friend of yours Chapman[9] of Liverpool [p. 3] a very nice fellow, who I hope will come to visit me & see the 10 pictures & watercolors[10] by you which I own. (6 of these are quite small)

He described my feelings about the Piano picture, by the man who, when asked how he felt, said "Sober & Sorry for it." I also met A. R. Collie[11], who at one time was arranging with you about Cecil Rhodes portrait[12].

Pray pardon my failure to thank you sooner for your kind advice.

Best wishes to you for the [p. 4] coming year 1900 & do please let me have my portrait.
Your's [sic] very truly

J. J. Cowan

My compliments if you please to Miss Phillips[13]

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  nice letter
Probably JW to J. J. Cowan, #00734.

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

4.  Thames in Ice.
The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36).

5.  my portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Green: Portrait of J. J. Cowan (YMSM 402). JW began the portrait in 1893 but despite numerous sittings, he was still dissatisfied with it. It was still in his studio in 1900.

6.  Venice
The 3rd Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia,Venice, 1899, which ran from 22 April to 31 October 1899 (see JW to J. J. Cowan, #00728, #00730).

7.  Princess of Porcelain
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50).

8.  Chapman
Alfred Chapman (1839-1917), engineer and collector [more].

9.  Petite Vitesse
Fr., express carrier.

10.  10 pictures & watercolors
As well as the works referred to here, Cowan's collection included Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105); Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Chelsea Snow (YMSM 174); Nocturne: Black and Gold - Rag Shop, Chelsea (YMSM 204); Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice (YMSM 213); The Angry Sea (YMSM 282); Chelsea Shop (YMSM 374); The Little Nurse (YMSM 443) and Brown and Gold: The Curé's Little Class (YMSM 455).

11.  A. R. Collie
A. R. Collie, possibly a portrait painter.

12.  Cecil Rhodes portrait
Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), diamond prospector and politician [more]. This proposal came to nothing.

13.  Miss Phillips
Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more].