The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11406
Date: [17 November 1886][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: The Committee of the 'National Art Exhibition' [2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]

To the Committee of the "National Art Exhibition"


I am naturally interested in any effort made among Painters to prove that they are alive - but when I find, thrust in the van of your leaders, the body of my dead 'Arry[4], I know that putrefaction alone can result. When, following 'Arry, there comes on Oscar[5], you finish in farce, and bring upon yourselves the scorn and ridicule of your confrères in Europe.

What has Oscar in common with Art? except that he dines at our tables and picks from our platters the plums for the pudding he peddles in the provinces. Oscar - the amiable, irresponsible, esurient Oscar - with no more sense of a picture than of the fit of a coat, has the courage of the opinions . . . of others!

With 'Arry and Oscar you have avenged the Academy.

I am, Gentlemen, yours obediently,

[butterfly signature]

Enclosed to the Poet[6], with a line: "Oscar, you must really keep outside 'the radius'!"

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [17 November 1886]
The textual note in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890 wrongly dates this as having been published in The World, 17 November 1888.

2.  National Art Exhibition
An article in the Art Journal announced that an 'organisation having for its object the foundation of a "National Exhibition of the Arts" has been established'. It was described as an 'anti-academy movement', but the Art Journal suggested that it would be better to reform the Royal Academy itself. The article noted, 'It is understood that so far the appeal has met with scant success', ('Art Notes and Reviews', Art Journal, December 1886, p. 381). The leading figures under the chairmanship of Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), painter [more], were George Clausen (1852-1944), painter and print-maker [more], William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), artist [more], Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929), painter [more], Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916), artist [more], Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927), painter [more], and James Havard Thomas (1854-1921), sculptor [more]. It appears that JW, Wilde and Quilter were invited to join this reformist project and that JW declined the offer.

3.  PLc
Published in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 164; see Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, B. 39.

4.  'Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more].

5.  Oscar
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more]. A copy of this letter was sent to Wilde. See his response, #11407.

6.  Enclosed to the Poet
Written in the right margin.