62, Sloane Street,
July 1, 1862.
May I beg to correct an erroneous impression likely to be confirmed by a paragraph in your last number? The Proprietors of the Berners Street Gallery have, without my sanction, called my picture "The Woman in White." I had no intention whatsoever of illustrating Mr. Wilkie Collins's novel; it so happens, indeed, that I have never read it. My painting simply represents a girl dressed in white standing in front of a white curtain.
I am, &c.,
Published as Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to the Editor], The Athenaeum, no. 1810, 5 July 1862, p. 23 [GM, B.1]; reprinted in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 54, and Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, no. 6, p. 12.
3. Sloane Street
JW was using the address of Francis Seymour Haden and Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], although he had just moved, or was about to move to 7A Queen's Road, Chelsea, where he lived until March 1863.
A portrayal of Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more], Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38), rejected by the Royal Academy in April 1862. It created a stir when it was exhibited at the Berners St Gallery in June (see JW to G. A. Lucas, #11977). It was advertised by the gallery as 'Whistler's extraordinary Picture of "The Woman in White"' (see Athenaeum, 19 July 1862), a reference to the title of the popular novel by William Wilkie Collins The Woman in White, London, 1860. In an earlier review, Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), critic and PRB associate [more], had described JW's picture as 'A woman, in a quaint morning dress of white with her hair about her shoulders, stands alone, in a background of nothing in particular [...] The face is well done, but it is not that of Mr. Wilkie Collins's 'Woman in White.' (Anon., 'Fine Art Gossip,' The Athenaeum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 1809, 28 June 1862 'Fine Art Gossip,' The Athenaeum, 28 June 1862, p. 859). Stephens's remarks, together with the advertisement, seems to have triggered JW's annoyance. However Frederick Buckstone (b. ca 1838), artist and secretary of the Berners Street Gallery [more], contested JW's claim in a later number: 'Mr. Whistler was well aware of his picture being advertised as 'The Woman in White,' and was pleased with the name' (The Athenaeum, no. 1812, 19 July 1862, p. 86). See also F. Buckstone to the editor of The Athenaeum, #12979).