As to the pastels, well - they are the fashion. There has never been such a success known. Whistler has decorated a room for them, - an arrangement in brown, gold, and Venetian red, - which is very lovely, and in it they look perfect gems. All the London world was at the private view - princesses, painters, beauties, actors, everybody. In fact, at one moment of the day it was impossible to move, for the room was crammed. Even Whistler's enemies were obliged to acknowledge their loveliness. The criticisms [sic] were one and all high in their praise.
One of them published the story of Wolkoff, the Russian imitator, and said he was obliged to take a course of mud baths after his defeat. Altogether it has been a great lark, and Whistler [p. 2] has often said, "Would n't the boys appreciate the fun of all this?"
I am going to send you a little book of all the cuttings of the newspapers, so that you can see for yourself.
The best of it is, all the pastels are selling. Four hundred pounds' worth went the first day; now over a thousand pounds' worth are sold. Their prices range from twenty to sixty guineas, and nobody grumbles at paying for them.
1. [2/28 February 1881]
Dated from reference to Venice pastels exhibition (see note below).
Published in Bacher, Otto Henry, With Whistler in Venice, New York, 1908, pp. 206-7. This does not appear to be the full text of the letter.
A reference to JW's latest exhibition Venice Pastels, The Fine Art Society, London, 1881 which opened on 29 January.
Alexandre Nicolaievitch Roussoff or Volkoff-Muromsoff (1844-1928), genre and landscape painter, watercolourist [more]. Bacher relates a story that one evening in a Venice restaurant, Wolkoff ridiculed JW's pastels although they had been praised by an American admirer. Wolkoff bet that 'he could make half a dozen pastels as good as Whistler's and, if they were mixed with his, nobody could tell them apart.' Unbeknownst to JW, the bet was taken up by the American and a jury successfully judged the work of the two men apart, shouting, according to Bacher, 'Take it away' whenever one of Wolkoff's appeared. For the full story see Bacher, Otto Henry, With Whistler in Venice, New York, 1908, pp. 201-5.
The exhibition was widely reviewed in such papers as the Daily News, Daily Telegraph and the literary-scientific review the Athenaeum. See, for example, Anon., 'Mr. Whistler's Pastels,' The Athenaeum, no. 2780. 5 February 1881, p. 206.