The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: sculpture
Record 3 of 26

System Number: 06765
Date: [15 July 1878][1]
Author: Alan Summerley Cole[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W759
Document Type: MsN[3]

"But still you must admit that Art is meant to give pleasure to as many people as possible."

"As possible - yes - but they are few and not many - the eye for painting and the ear for musi[c] are given to the few not to the many - and the eye is rarer than the ear [and?] and is given to the fewest of the few - a painting therefore to the many either pleases or displeases - and they should say of it - we 'like or dislike' - not 'this is good or bad' -

"How do you[4] arrive at the relative estimate of ear & eye, seeing that you are not a musician?"

"From observation - I find that people retain more usually the form of intellectual beings when a piece is being played than in the presence of a picture on an easel -

By 'people' here[5] do you mean the Critic as well? But surely you do not include in this But surely your sweeping classification doesn't include the Critic?

"If painting[6] then appeals to so few what about the bread & butter?"

"That of course is a matter for the consideration of the serious - but for "Nous autres" there always remain the brioches of this life!"

"In your campaign with the critics, they once burnt your cakes" - did they not?"

[p. 2] [...]upon Art as Cosmopolitan? Would you not have a nation cultivate its taste?"

"By no means! It is of necessity so bad that it should not be disturbed at all - rather leave it quiescent than invigorate it by agitation - Better withdraw the people's attention from these matters altogether -"

"Still you must admit

"Then whats the use of Galleries & Museums?"

"To preserve the pictures for me to look at" - And here our my laughter got the better of me[.] But only for a second - Whistler developed his opinion - "The other day a man wished me to sign a petition for opening the National Gallery[7] on Sunday and was greatly astonished when I refused point blank - I told him that I would sign any thing that should propose the people's joy in their own element [-] the opening of Music Halls, drinking fountains, or for the intellectual the Kew Gardens with night lights at South Kensington[8] - anything - but dont let Arry[9] & his Arriet breathe lovingly together over Velasquez[10] - & let not the working man drop the sweat of his brow upon the Elgin Marbles[11].

[p. 3] [embossed lion and unicorn coat of arms]


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1.  [15 July 1878]
Dated from entry in Alan Cole's diary (see note below).

2.  Alan Summerley Cole
Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more].

3.  MsN
This relates to JW's preparations for his libel suit against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], which took place from 25-26 November 1878. See also #06757-66, #12001. It is in the hand of Cole. On 15 July, Cole noted in his diary: 'J. turned up and I noted some of his remarks on Art for him.' See Alan Cole Diary, #13132.

4.  How do you ... a picture on an easel -
This section is boxed.

5.  If painting ... this life!
Crossed through with two vertical lines and a large 'X'.

6.  By 'people' here ... Critic
This paragraph is written in JW's hand in the lower left-hand margin.

7.  National Gallery
The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.

8.  South Kensington
The South Kensington Museums, predecessor of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

9.  Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more]. The cockney form of Harry was 'Arry, and the cockney young woman was referred to as 'Arriet.

10.  Velasquez
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more].

11.  Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles (z79).

12.  'Tho...'
Written in another hand.