The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 4 of 92

System Number: 09182
Date: [18 January 1873][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: George Aloysius Lucas[2]
Place: Paris
Repository: Walters Art Gallery, Library, Baltimore, MD
Document Type: ALS[3]

2 Lindsey Houses -
London -

Dear Lucas -

I have heard of you from time to time through Avery[4] and listened with great pleasure to his description of your new house[5] you have lately built - The Studio in it naturally interested me immensely - He tells me that you invite me to come and paint in it! - This is a princely offer which I hope to remind you of and thank you for one of these days when I also intend to accept it - Meanwhile I write to tell you of an exhibition[6] of several works[7] of mine now to be opened by Mons. Durand Ruel - Rue Lafitte - Go and see them[8] and do like a good fellow write me a letter and tell me how you like [p. 2] them - They are not merely canvasses having interest in themselves alone, but are intended to indicate slightly to "those whom it may concern" something of my theory in art[9] - And The science of color and "picture pattern" as I have worked it out for myself during these years -

There! - I will not bore you with an article - Go and see and also fight any battles for me about them with the painter fellows you may find opposed to them - of whom by the way there will doubtless be many - Write me what you may hear and in short as I am not there to see, tell me what effect my work produces, if any -

You will notice and perhaps meet with opposition that my frames I have designed as carefully as my pictures - and thus they form as important a part as any of the rest [p. 3] of the work - carrying on the particular harmony throughout - This is of course entirely original with me and has never been done - Though many have painted on their frames but never with real purpose - or knowledge - in short never in this way or anything at all like it - This I have so thoroughly established here that no one would dare to put any colour whatever (excepting the old black and white and that quite out of place probably) on their frames without feeling that they would at once be pointed out as forgers or imitators; and I wish this to be also clearly stated in Paris that I am the inventor of all this kind of decoration of in color in the frames; that I may not have a lot of clever little Frenchmen trespassing on my ground -

By the names[10] of the pictures also I point out something of what I mean in my theory of painting -

I hope my dear Lucas you are quite well - and that you may perhaps run over this summer and give me a look up - [p. 4]

With best wishes for the New Year, believe me,

Ever Yours affectionately,

J A McN Whistler

You will see my mark on pictures and frames - It is a butterfly and does as a monogram for J.W. [butterfly signature]
Characteristic I dare say you will say in more ways than one! -
This exhibition of mine you will see clearly is especially intended to assert myself to the painters - in short in a manner to register among them in Paris as I have done here, my work - Therefore I have not waited for the Salon[11] - where I could only send two things - This is an "overture!" -

This document is protected by copyright.


George Lucas -
41. Rue de L'arc de Triomphe

'Whistler[12] Jany 19th 73 about his Durand-Ruel exposition'

[postmark:] [illegible] 19 JANV 73
[postmark:] LONDON - SW 5 JA 18 73
[postmark:] S. 36
[stamp:] POSTAGE F I

'Envelope[13] of letter from Whistler to George Lucas inserted in Henry Walters' copy of Porcelain .. of Sir Henry Thompson'


1.  [18 January 1873]
Dated from postmark.

2.  George Aloysius Lucas
George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more].

3.  ALS
Published in Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, no. 15, pp. 47-49.

4.  Avery
Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), print-publisher, collector and philanthropist [more].

5.  new house
This may be a reference to the addition that George Lucas had made to his country house at Boissise-la-Bertrand the previous year. In addition, Lucas had moved apartment from the fifth to the fourth floor of 41 Rue de l'Arc de Triomphe on 21 September 1872. See Randall, Lillian, ed., George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857-1909, Princeton, 1979, vol. 2, p. 367.

6.  exhibition
[Exposition], Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1873, opened in January.

7.  works
JW exhibited Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122), and [Views of the Thames] (YMSM 138). The number and exact titles of [Views of the Thames] (YMSM 138) are unknown.

8.  theory in art
Some years later, in 1885, JW expounded upon his theory of colour and form in his Ten O'Clock Lecture: 'Nature contains the elements, in colour and form of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music. But the artist is born to pick, and choose, and group with science, these elements, that the result may be beautiful - as the musician gathers his notes, and forms his chords, until he bring forth from chaos glorious harmony.' See Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1892, pp. 142-43.

9.  names
See JW's explanation of the titles of his work in The Red Rag, Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1892, pp. 126-28: 'Why should not I call my works "symphonies," "arrangements," "harmonies," and "nocturnes"? [...] My picture of a "Harmony in Grey and Gold" is an illustration of my meaning - a snow scene with a single black figure and a lighted tavern. I care nothing for the past, present, or future of the black figure, placed there because the black was wanted at that spot. All that I know is that my combination of grey and gold is the basis of the picture. Now this is precisely what my friends cannot grasp.'

10.  Salon
JW did not send any works to the Salon in 1873. He would not exhibit there again until 1882.

11.  Whistler
'Whistler Jany ... exposition' written in another hand, probably that of Lucas.

12.  Envelope
'Envelope of ... Thompson' written in another hand.

13.  see them
George Lucas saw the pictures at Durand Ruel's on 20 January. See Randall, Lillian, ed., George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857-1909, Princeton, 1979, vol. 2, p. 373.