System Number: 13487
Date: [9/22 November 1873]
Recipient: Charles William Deschamps
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 292
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: ALS
2 Lindsey Houses.
Dear Deschamps -
I cant tell you how excessively troubled I am by what I see in the papers -
At first I took what the Observer of last Sunday said about Mr. Whistlers pun on "B Sharp", for some unwarrantable hoax of their own - And paid no further attention; but I find it repeated in other journals and am told that it is so in your catalogue! For this I am very sorry - I am convinced that you would not willingly have done any thing of the kind to annoy me -
[p. 2] It was probably proposed by some one at the club and thought rather a good thing,
than and that I would be pleased with it - And you yourself doubtless thought no more about it - Nor is it really worth much thought - but you see the names I give to my pictures really mean to indicate seriously the kind of work I am about -
And this or any other witticism from without thrown at me would do well enough, but I
cannot never joke with my own work myself and I cannot possibly let it be supposed that I should do so - The upshot of all this is that I beg [p. 3] you will scratch "Symphony in B Sharp" out of your catalogue - Leave 'Yacht Race' if you like - though I regret immensely having been knocked over by my illness so immediately after seeing you - and so prevented from seeing the picture and doing anything about either its name or its frame - Also that I shall probably have to write a line to the Athenaeum to explain this and that I hope you will not be vexed at my so doing -
It would be very simple - very short and inculpate no one - Pray let me hear from you - I am still horribly ill though convalescent. With my kindest regards and thanks to yourself and Madame Deschamps for your kind enquiries -
J A McN Whistler.
1. [9/22 November 1873]
This must date from after a review in the Athenaeum on 8 November 1873 but before publication of JW's letter on 22 November (see below).
p. 3 is written at right angles to the rest of the text. A note on a cover-sheet reads: 'Original letter of Whistler to C. W. Deschamps / Mr. L. G. Deschamps, (son of C. W. Deschamps) / Messrs J Connell & Sons. / 47 Old Bond Street, / W.' Deschamp's reply to JW's letter is #00830.
4. B Sharp
Trouville (YMSM 70) was exhibited at the 7th Exhibition, Society of French Artists, London, 1873 (cat. no. 110) as 'The Yacht Race - A Symphony in B sharp'. Deschamps told JW he copied the title from a label on the back (#00830). He eventually sold the picture back to JW (see his letter of 8 April 1891, #00833).
The Athenaeum had described JW's painting as 'a vigorous and beautiful study of colour, and bright, yet soft tone, the subject being a contest of sailing vessels near the shore. Among the finer, if not the finest, portion of this interesting picture, is the sky, which is excellent' (Athenaeum, 8 November 1873, p. 601). They did not comment on the title, but it was probably because of this review that JW decided to write his letter (see Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to the Editor], The Athenaeum, no. 2404, 22 November 1873, p. 666, #13150).