UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 13170
Date: [26 April 1898][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: Pall Mall Gazette[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler PC 22/143
Document Type: PD


[...] "First of all," said Mr. Whistler, "it must be thoroughly understood that the organizers of the International Exhibition[3] are animated by the most serious artistic motives. I was approached, to begin with, by a number of young men - the vanguard of English art - who expressed the desire to see a really international collection of pictures brought together in London. We wanted to break through the wearisome routine of the annual shows - to mention only the Royal Academy, the New Art Gallery, the Grosvenor, and so forth. Mere annual output we have nothing to do with. What we want is to show artists and the public, too (if the public likes), the present point to which art has reached, and no opportunity for this has yet occurred in England. The English, for instance, are very proud of their black and white artists. Well, we would like to show them that all they have done in black and white, in coloured lithography, and so forth, is the merest child's play as compared with what has been done on the Continent. The British public is kept completely in the dark as to the real nature of the Art movement throughout the world. It will be the task of the International Art Exhibition to enlighten that ignorance. Fortunately the position which I occupy here gives me the necessary authority to persuade the great continental painters to treat this scheme seriously. I have been able to point out the advantages of this exhibition to men of the highest eminence, such as Puvis de Chavannes[4], Rodin[5], Forain[6], and others, all of whom have consented to contribute, and are much interested in the success of the show. And, believe me, the lesson will be great, the revelation enormous. For instance, there will be a fine show of drawings by Milcendeau[7] and quite a big collection of Foraines."

Mr. Whistler then unhooked from the wall a framed drawing by Milcendeau, representing a mediaeval personage in knightly guise. "Who draws like that in England at the present day?" he said. ["]There's a quality about that which is perfectly extraordinary - the air of something that comes out of a museum. And so with coloured lithography: the exhibition will show the English artists and the English public the giant strides that have been made abroad in this department of Art."

"And you prophesy success for this exhibition, Mr. Whistler?"

"It seems to me," he replied, "that the people who go down Bond-street and Piccadilly would hardly fail to come to our show. But we do not address ourselves so much to the general public, to the paying public, as to that section of the public that is seriously interested in Art. The International Art Exhibition will be an artistic congress held in London - with or without the public - for the purpose of enabling artists and the public, if it likes, to study and comprehend the progress which Art is making.

"Of course," said Mr. Whistler, in conclusion, "we shall meet with a certain amount of opposition. We shall be looked on with a very wooden eye by the working men of the trade. That doesn't matter. We shall have brought together the most representative collection of international art that has ever been exhibited in London, and thus supplied a want that has long been felt. We have the serious men with us, and they take us seriously. Naturally the larger proportion are foreigners. It just happened that the best men are abroad. We have had to seek them and find them where we could. That London should have been chosen as the centre where this artistic congress is to meet is a fact of which London may be proud."


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Notes:

1.  26 April 1898
Dated from the date of publication (see below).

2.  Pall Mall Gazette
'The International Exhibition. Interview with Mr. Whistler,' Pall Mall Gazette, 26 April 1898 (reprinted in Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, no. 67). The transcription begins half way down the newspaper article at the beginning of the quoted words of JW. The interview took place in JW's studio on the Rue Notre Dame des Champs, Paris.

3.  International Exhibition
Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1898.

4.  Puvis de Chavannes
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898), painter [more].

5.  Rodin
René François Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), sculptor [more].

6.  Forain
Jean Louis Forain (1852-1931), painter and printmaker [more].

7.  Milcendeau
Edmond Charles Théodore Milcendeau (1872-1919), landscape and portrait painter [more].