The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 07569
Date: [17 March 1899][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: William Cleverley Alexander[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: British Museum, London
Call Number: Department of Prints and Drawings, 1958-2-8-23
Document Type: ALS[3]

My dear Alexander -

I dont make out now at all what can be your decision if it be not that you are going to send the picture[4] to Venice -

That is so, isn't it? -

I certainly have written to the Mayor[5], as I told you I should, and announced [p. 2] that you had promised they should have the picture - -

Surely that is all right, isn't it? -

My last letter hoping you would get the Dublin[6] people to release the picture in time for the opening ceremony in Venice, as in official courtesy they should do, you said you would send on to them - And I thought that all right too - -

So now I don't see exactly where this note of yours that has just come fits in? - I do hope nothing is more wrong than before - and that the picture will go to Venice when it does come away from Dublin any how - Have you heard from the Italian people? - Of course they will communicate with you properly and make clear all matters of insurance and security in travelling - etc -

You say you think the Dublin exhibition will do me as much good as Venice -

I am afraid I have but little interest in the supposed "good" that any Exhibition can do me -

But I like a certain acknowledgement or recognition - and such recognition is only of worth from Abroad. - In England an abject and [p. 3] ridiculous admission has taken the place of angry bewilderment and universal suspicion - But the real feeling is not forgotten! -

Do you suppose the comic grovelling this year before her sister's portrait[7], barely begun, wipes away poor little Miss Cissie's tears, and her Father's blank looks at the coarse ribaldry and vile abuse that was brayed throughout the land where her own beautiful picture was shown? - These things are graven in history - and we have recorded in the Catalogue the "Voice of that People"! -

True the attitude toward the paintings themselves is today, as who should say, more respectful, as who should say, "on change"! -

Guaranteed by the French Government, & with "The Mother"[8] in the Luxembourg, it has been discovered that these "excentricities" had a market value - whereupon the English Gentlemen, in the [p. 4] proud moment of their the justification of their own judgement as connoisseurs, collectors, patrons of art! and what not, have instantly turned them into money! - selling, under my very eyes, for thousands, what they had obtained for a few pounds!! -

Men have gone to Monaco, powder has been put on footmen, and families were sent to the Engardine on my work[9]!! and, with the honourable exception of your own, there is at this moment scarcely a picture of mine left in the island! -

[butterfly signature]

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1.  [17 March 1899]
JW's copy of this same letter is dated 17 March 1899, #02942.

2.  William Cleverley Alexander
William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), banker and patron [more].

3.  ALS
Written on mourning stationery.

4.  picture
Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129); the exhibition was 3rd Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia,Venice, 1899. It opened on 22 April 1899. The portrait was not included in the catalogue but may simply have arrived too late.

5.  Mayor
Comte Filippo Grimani (1850-1921), Mayor of Venice, President of the Internation Art Exhibition of the City of Venice [more].

6.  Dublin
The painting was currenntly on view in A Loan Collection of Modern Paintings, Leinster Hall, Dublin, 1899.

7.  sister's portrait
Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127).

8.  Miss Cissie's
Cicely Henrietta Alexander (1864-1932), later Mrs Spring Rice [more].

9.  The Mother
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101), which was bought by the French government in 1891.

10.  my work
Double underlined.