The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 13147
Date: 29 March [1881][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Francis Seymour Haden[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler LB 12/49
Document Type: PLc[3]

' "The Haden[4] - Piker[5] - Painter etcher Plot." '

[p. 2] [letter copies][6]

[p. 3] [COPY.]



Mr. Huish[7] handed me your letter[8] of the 21st inst., since when I have waited in vain for the true version that I doubted not would follow the "mistaken representation" you regret I should have received.

Now I must ask that you will, if possible, without further delay, give me a thorough explanation of your visit to the "Fine Art Society's" Gallery on Friday evening, the 17th inst. - involving, as it did, a discussion of my private affairs.

Did you, accompanied by M. Legros and Dr. Hamilton[9], call at "The Fine Art Society's" Rooms on that date, and ask to see Mr. Whistler's Etchings?[10]

Did you three proceed to make a careful and minute examination of these, and then ask Mr. Brown[11] if Mr. Whistler had done other Etchings of Venice? And, upon his answer in the affirmative, did you ask Mr. Brown if any of the other plates were large ones, and, notably, whether Mr. Whistler had done any other plate of the subject called "The Riva"?[12]

Did you ask to see the early states of Mr. Whistler's Etchings?

Did you say to Mr. Brown, "Now is not Mr. Whistler under an engagement with the Fine Art Society to publish no Venice Etchings for a year?" or words to that effect. And upon Mr. Brown's assurance that such was the case, did you request him to go with you to the Hanover Gallery?

Did you there produce for his inspection three large Venice Etchings, and among them the "Riva" subject?[13]

Did you then incite Mr. Brown to detect in these works the hand of Mr. Whistler?

Did you point out details of execution which, in your opinion, betrayed Mr. Whistler's manner?

Did you say, "You see these Etchings are signed 'Frank Duveneck[14],' and I have written to that name and address for their purchase, but I don't believe in the existence of such a person," or words to that effect?

If this be not so,

Why did you take Mr. Brown over to the Hanover Gallery?

Why did you show him Mr. Duveneck's Venice Etchings?

Why did you question him about my engagement with the "Fine Art Society?"

Is it officially, as the "Painter Etchers'" President, that you pry about the town?

Does the Committee sanction your suggestions? And have you permitted yourself these "proceedings" with the full knowledge and approval of the "dozen or more distinguished men seated in serious council," as described by yourself in the Pall Mall Gazette?

Of what nature, pray, is the "necessary duty" that has led two medical men and a Slade Professor to fail as Connoisseurs, and blunder as Detectives? -

"Vat shall de honest man do in my closet?
Dere is no honest man dat shall come in my closet!"

(Signed) J. A. McN. WHISTLER.

[butterfly signature]

Tuesday, March 29th.

Copies of this correspondence will be sent to members of your Committee.


This document is protected by copyright.


1.  29 March [1881]
Year date from other letters in this sequence (see correspondence between M. B. Huish and F. S. Haden, #01131, #01944; JW to Painter-Etcher's Society, #11632, #13151; F. S. Haden to E. G. Brown, #01943; JW to C. A. Howell, #02878).

2.  Francis Seymour Haden
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. This relates to an incident between JW and the newly formed Painter Etcher's Society. In the spring of 1881, the Society held an exhibition at the Hanover Gallery. However, when Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], submitted three Venice etchings, Haden (who was President of the Society) suspected that they were in fact by JW. Anxious to compare the etchings with those that JW had been printing for the Fine Art Society, Haden, Alphonse Legros and Hamilton paid a visit to the Society's gallery. JW was indignant when he heard of the visit, regarding it as an attack on his artistic integrity. A lengthy correspondence ensued which was eventually published in the form of a pamphlet (Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881).

3.  PLc
The whole of this letter is printed, except for the butterfly signature, and is from the pamphlet, Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881.

4.  "The Haden ... Plot."
Written on the cover sheet in the hand of Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more], to whom this copy of the whole pamphlet belonged..

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

6.  [letter copies]
Two printed letter copies appear on this page, one from M. B. Huish to F. S. Haden (see #01131) and one from F. S. Haden to M. B. Huish (see #01944).

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

8.  your letter
See F. S. Haden to M. B. Huish, #01944.

9.  M. Legros and Dr. Hamilton
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].

10.  Mr Whistler's Etchings
Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5).

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

12.  The Riva
JW had indeed etched The Riva, No.1 (K.192).

13.  Riva subject
Probably F. Duveneck, The Riva, No. 2; see MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001, pp. 70, 96).

14.  Frank Duveneck
Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].