The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 05472
Date: [9/16 January 1892][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: George Washburn Smalley[2]
Place: [Paris?]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler S117
Document Type: ALS



My dear Smalley -

I have been as you may fancy quite anxious to see you about our American Ruskin[3]! -

Of course I would give the "ill mannered scoundrel" the least possible notice - still I think that in two or three words you might make him regret his foolish birth! -

The point is that the highest honour that can be conferred upon any Artist by the French Gouvernment has been conferred upon me - and that, notwithstanding that an unnamed Spanish painter[4] had an influential brother-in-law! Moreover in my case the course pursued [p. 2] has been an altogether exceptional one - The démarche of the Government personally towards myself is quite unheard of - and as you will see from the enclosed letter[5] (sent to me by the distinguished man to whom it was written) the reception of the picture[6] in the Luxembourg has been marked by distinctions hitherto unpractised -

The portrait was placed upon an easel and exhibited in the Salon d'honneur of the Galleries for a couple of weeks before its final hanging upon the walls - This is only done to a newly acquired work in the Louvre! - so that, until in the end of time, I go to the Louvre, the Louvre meanwhile has, as who should say, come to me!! -

Can any thing be more royal! And [of?] such is the moment chosen by this New York malignant prig for his proposal that the purchase of Mr. Whistler's picture by France is less "an honour" than a piece of "good fortune" - and that its presence in the Luxembourg is only to be accounted for by the supposition [p. 3][7] that the tone of the French National Gallery had been lowered until it should meet the degraded level of Mr. Whistler's work! -

Surely this American attack upon a distinguished country man leaves, in the matter of suggestion, the simple minded Ruskin[8] a mere blundering Briton far behind - quite a touching spectacle of lost opportunity! really, in comparison, as he"R. C. H." puts it: "an honest and intelligent critic," whose only trouble is that "his judgement will not be affected"!

"The Luxembourg stamp upon the back of a picture, says "R. C. H." does not make it or the artist who painted it great" - but the stamp of the master ofon the face of the picture does make it great - and the honours heaped upon the man who painted it this one, in the art centres [p. 4] of the Continent where the work was shown, prove that as such it has gone into history even before the "Portrait of the Painter's Mother" found its home resting place in the Luxembourg on its way to the Louvre.

Of this and other things R. C. H. should have informed himself before making undertaking his graceless task of detraction and inuendo. -

If in tomorrow's letter[9], my dear Smalley, you can, à propos of the fresh detail of distinction - the easel in the Grand Salon of the Luxembourg - refer slightly to the R. C. H. man, and can make use of what I have here scrawled - Why of course I shall be again delighted - But you know that whatever you decide must be from your own clear sense of the situation - I want you to send me back my letter from the Luxembourg, so that I can have it by tomorrow night - Also I should like much to keep R. C. H's letter -


[butterfly signature]

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1.  [9/16 January 1892]
This letter is a response to one published on 26 December 1891 (see Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, J142).

2.  George Washburn Smalley
George Washburn Smalley (1833-1916), journalist and Times correspondent [more].

3.  American Ruskin
[R. C. H.]. His letter was published in the Critic on 26 December 1891.

4.  Spanish painter
Not identified.

5.  letter
Not identified.

6.  picture
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

7.  [p. 3]
JW has written '(2.)' at the top of this page to indicate the beginning of the second sheet.

8.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

9.  letter
G. W. S., 'Mr. Whistler: His Entrance into the Luxembourg ...' New York Daily Tribune, 17 January 1892 (GUL PC 13/2). Smalley made some of the points JW wished, stressing that it was a unique and unprecedented honor, and the honor was more important than the price.

10.  Always
Valediction and signature written in left hand margin.