The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 00743
Date: 25-26 February 1901
Author: John James Cowan[1]
Place: Edinburgh
Recipient: JW
Place: Ajaccio
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C244
Document Type: ALS


25th Febry 1901

My dear Whistler,

I was delighted to get your letter[2] from Ajaccio.

Surely if Napoleon[3] had borne his troubles with as light a heart as you, even the Briton would have behaved better to him?

And yet, when I think of what has happened, I wonder which is worse?

To have been "banished" to St Helena, or to be "hung" at Burlington House[4]?

We have had the best of it this winter in these northern climes, for our houses [p. 2] are warm and comfortable, but the outside weather has been less inclement than you have had.

I am interested to hear of your proposed show in Paris.

Everything I have of your's [sic] is of course at your disposal.

I enclose a list, and I will keep all these items beside me until you make your selection.

I hope you will be all the better of your Marseilles physician's prescriptions.

Always Your's sincerely

J. J. Cowan

[p. 3] 26th

Your second letter[5] received this morning. You undervalue "The Thames in Ice"[6] - I didn't think of selling, but Thomson[7] pressed me for a price - I named £1500 & he didn't wince. To my relief he didn't close, but said by letter "If you send it up I think I can sell it" - Greatly relieved - I withdrew my offer! I have sold some other things - Jas. Maris[8], Jacques & Bosboom.

My sketches of the panels will follow. They are all good but perhaps No 3 "water color" and 9 "Head" are those I think most of.

J. J. C.

[p. 4] 3 Water Color Drawings
(1) Mrs Whibley[9] - Feather boa
(2) Pink & Rose[10] - The Mother's sleep
(3) A street scene[11] (or Square?) see rough Sketch 'Hoxton[12]' - Numbers of figures full of movement - children skipping & playing. A very charming example got from Reid[13] of Glasgow

6 Panels
(4) Sky, steamer, sea & sandy shore (got from Goupil) '{"Angry Sea" - St. Ives -}'
(5) The curé's class[14] (Goupil)
(6) Shop front with vegetables outside[,] figure on steps in doorway to right 'Chelsea Shop[15] -'
(7) House front see rough sketch 'Lyme Regis[16]'
(The above are all oblong)
(8) House front see sketch - quiet greys & greens - woman apparently washing clothes to left outside 'Courtyard House[17] in Dieppe.'
(9) Study of Model[18] head & shoulders - looks [p. 5] like "La petite souris[19]" you had at Knightsbridge. grey dress dark background & lovely bits of gold shining through - being the natural color of the panel.
These last 2 are upright.
(I wonder if you recognize any or all of these things?)

I don't know that 4 Lithographs[20] are of any use? got from the Fine Art Socy. (They have 2 butterflies. One from the stone & one in pencil by yourself?)

(10) Les bonnes du Luxembourg
(11) Jardin du Luxembourg - flight of steps
(12) The reading model.
(13) Your own garden with 2 figures.

J. J. C.


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

2.  your letter
See JW to J. J. Cowan, #00741 and #00742.

3.  Napoleon
Ajaccio was in Corsica, the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of France [more]. In 1815, Napoleon was exiled by the British to the island of St Helena.

4.  Burlington House
The home of the Royal Academy.

5.  second letter
See JW to J. J. Cowan, #00742.

6.  undervalue 'The Thames in Ice'
JW had suggested that Cowan ought to get £1000 for The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) (see #00742). D. C. Thomson (see note below) offered £1500 in 1901.

7.  Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more].

8.  Jas. Maris
Jacobus ('Jacob') Hendricus Paul Maris (1837-1899), artist [more]; unidentified 'Jacques'; and Johannes Bosboom (1817-1891), painter of church interiors [more].

9.  Mrs Whibley
Rose and Silver: Portrait of Mrs Whibley (M.1415).

10.  Pink & Rose
Rose and Pink - the Mother's sleep (M.1300).

11.  street scene
Hoxton (M.1005).

12.  Hoxton
Red and brown - Hoxton (M.1004), identified by JW. Cowan's list was subsequently annotated by JW in pencil. He identified one watercolour and four oil panels (nos. 3, 4, 6-8).

13.  Reid
Alexander Reid (1854-1936), Glasgow dealer [more].

14.  Angry Sea
The Angry Sea (YMSM 282), identified by JW.

15.  The curé's class
Brown and Gold: The Curé's Little Class (YMSM 455), purchased by Cowan from the Goupil Gallery, London by 1899.

16.  Chelsea Shop
Chelsea Shop (YMSM 374), identified by JW.

17.  Lyme Regis
Landscape, Lyme Regis (YMSM 447), identified by JW.

18.  Courtyard House
White and Grey: La Cour de l'hôtel, Dieppe (YMSM 325), identified by JW.

19.  Model
The Bridesmaid (YMSM 487).

20.  La petite souris
Grey and Silver: La Petite Souris (YMSM 502).

21.  4 Lithographs
The four lithographs listed below are Nursemaids: 'Les Bonnes du Luxembourg' (C.81); The Steps, Luxembourg (C.68); The Little Nude Model, Reading (C.33) or possibly The Novel: Girl Reading (C.32) and Confidences in the Garden (C.100).