The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11632
Date: 10 May 1881
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Committee of the Society of Painter Etchers
Place: London
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 187
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALdS[1]

Arts Club[2] - (Hanover Square -[)]

May 10. 1881.

Gentlemen[3], -

I have hitherto, in vain, written to Sir William Drake[4], as Secretary of the Painter Etchers' Society, - and feeling convinced that his elaborate silence cannot possibly be the expression of any intended discourtesy on the past of the Committee, as a body, - but that it would rather indicate that they had not been consulted in the matter at all, I now address myself to you, and beg that you will kindly inform me whether the Committee, as officially represented by their Officers, endorse the late acts of their President, - or whether they intend taking any steps towards refusing to share the shame & ridicule that have accrued from certain "proceedings" described by Mr Haden as a "necessary duty", in the exercise of which he was officially engaged in conjunction with Dr Hamilton and M. Legros. -

That you may clearly see how current the matter has become, I have the honor Gentlemen to send you, herewith, for your serious consideration, extracts from the daily Press[5] - and, thus as you will read, thus carry out myself the first intention of a certain speculative Piker[6] - Newsvendor - Shepherds Market - who had purposed circulating among you twenty copies of the enclosed literary venture - curtailed, it is true, to the original "Piker paragraph", and unaccompanied by the Piker twenty penny prospect, - the printing of which may, who knows, have caused [p. 2] a wavering on the part of Piker, - and have left you deprived of his labor after all. -

Piker offers matter with authority - and here I would point out the close proximity of Shepherds Market to Hertford Street May Fair! - most suggestive is such contiguity! - the Newsvendors stall and the doctor's study within hail of each other! - Surely I may without indiscretion congratulate the President upon Piker's English - and also upon the Pecksniffian whine about the "brother in law" - rather telling in its way - but shallow! shallow! for after all Gentlemen a brother in law is not a connection calling for sentiment! rather more generally I fancy accepted, no - in the abstract rather an intruder than as "a near relation" - indeed "near relation" is mere swagger! -

Meanwhile the insinuation of jealousy of the "brother Etcher" is, as Piker puts it "suspecte" [sic] - very! - and modest - and transparent! -

To the last paper I have added the cutting from the former "Cuckoo"

[p. 3] Copy[7]

"38 Hertford Street - May Fair - W -

"Dear Sir -

We know all about Mr Frank Duveneck and are delighted to have his Etchings -

"Yours faith[full]y.

"F. Seymour Haden - "

Mar. 19th.

Mr Ernest Brown[8] -

It will be remembered that the little expedition to the Fine Art Society's Gallery took place on Thursday eveg the 17th March - on Friday the 18th Mr Huish[9] wrote to Mr Haden demanding an explanation, and on Saturday the 19th this foolish over diplomatic and criminating note was sent to Mr Brown altogether utterly unasked for and [illegible] without and curiously difficult to excuse - "He doth protest too much"

Further comment is I [believe to be as belongs?] fancy barelybelieve to be unnecessary - I refer you Gentlemen to themy letter of March 29th thoughwhich Mr Haden has never been able to answer - and merely I point out that the "blundering assistant" was the only one who did not blunder at all! - since he alone refrained  sat back   he refused to flounder in companyof the   and accept   as the production of Mr Whistler whose work he did know and quietly reserved the missing link and [scratch?] the work of Mr Roussell for that of Mr Whistler -

I have Gentlemen the honor to be
Your obt Servant

J A McN. Whistler

Mr D He is a distinguished musician painter   a personal friend of mine [who] began to etch in Venice during my stay there.This may possibly explain any fancied resemblance to my work which I daresay he will get over as he goes on -

May I without impertinence ask what really does constitute the Painter Etcher "all round" as Piker has it - for of the three who in that character have distinguished themselves in that character 2 certainly are not painters and 1 doesnt etch. -

To the Committee of the Painter Etchers' Society -

[p. 4] 'refrained from foolishness, and notwithstanding all exhortation steadily referred, in the presence of cunning connoisseurs to mistake the work of one man for that of another.'

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1.  ALdS
This relates to an incident between JW and Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], President of the newly formed Painter Etcher's Society. In the spring of 1881, the Society held an exhibition at the Hanover Gallery. Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more] submitted three Venice etchings, which Haden suspected were in fact by JW. Haden, Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], and Dr Edward Hamilton (1815 or 1816-1903), doctor of medicine and print collector [more], visited the Fine Art Society to compare Duveneck's work with Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5). JW regarded this as an attack on his artistic integrity. The ensuing correspondence was published in the form of a pamphlet (Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881). The pamphlet appeared in several forms. 'Extracts from the Press' refers to the correspondence which was published together with two articles from the Cuckoo (see 'A Storm in an Aesthetic Teacup,' The Cuckoo: The News and Gossip of the Day, 12 April 1881; 'Mr Whistler and the Painter Etchers,' 30 April 1881). See also correspondence between M. B. Huish and F. S. Haden, #01131, #01944; JW to F. S. Haden, #13147; JW to Painter-Etcher's Society, #11632, #13151; F. S. Haden to E. G. Brown, #01943; JW to C. A. Howell, #02878.

2.  Arts Club
Double underlined in pencil.

3.  Gentlemen
Triple underlined in pencil.

4.  Sir William Drake
Sir William Drake (1817-1890), Secretary of the Society of Painter-Etchers [more].

5.  extracts from the daily Press
See Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881.

6.  Piker
William Pike ('Piker') of 1 Hertford Street, Mayfair.

7.  Copy
Double underlined.

8.  Ernest Brown
Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more].

9.  Mr Huish
Marcus Bourne Huish (1843 - d.1921), barrister, writer and art dealer, Director of the Fine Art Society [more].