The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: oil painting, sale
Record 12 of 334

System Number: 09577
Date: 2 February [1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Walter Theodore Watts-Dunton[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: British Library, London
Call Number: Department of Manuscripts, Ashley Collection, Ashley 4601
Document Type: ALS[3]

96 Cheyne Walk

February. 2

My dear Watts -

This is my position. - It is far from my wish to rob Leyland[4] of any real right - whatever may be my opinion of his conduct - The portraits of himself and Mrs Leyland[5] I have witheld [sic] because of certain remarks in one of his letters[6] impugning their artistic value, and whereas I do not acknowledge that a picture once bought merely belongs to the man who pays the money, but that it is the property of the whole [p. 2] world, I consider that I have a right to exhibit such picture that its' [sic] character may be guaranteed by brother artists - therefore it was my intention to show, in a public exposition these two paintings this spring - and thereupon restore them to their chance purchaser -

With reference to the portrait of Miss Florence Leyland[7] I have to say that it is incomplete simply because the young lady[8] has not sufficiently sat for it - and as she is not likely to sit for it again, I must do what I can to make it as worthy of me and of herself as possible - When this is all accomplished, Leyland shall have it - for my "stock in trade" is my reputation, and it is not represented by Leyland's money.

[p. 3] In short I propose to hand him over these three pictures very shortly -

As to the fourth[9], he has made it impossible for me to pay him back the money at present - I am too poor to do so - but directly I am able, I will return him the 400 gs - either in a lump - or by instalments -

Forgive the weariness of all this my dear Watts

Ever yours

J A McN Whistler

[p. 4] P. S. After your rather curt letter[10], I should really like you to see a certain correspondence between me and Messrs Verity [11] about Leyland gas matters! -

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  2 February [1878]
Date written in an unknown hand, in red ink: '2.2.[?78]', confirmed by the almanack, since Saturday, 2 February was in 1878.

2.  Walter Theodore Watts-Dunton
Walter Theodore Watts (later Watts-Dunton) (1832-1914), solicitor, novelist and poet [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, pp. 50-51, no. 17. This letter is part of the draft letter, #06073.

4.  Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

5.  portraits of himself and Mrs Leyland
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97), and Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106).

6.  one of his letters
Probably F. R. Leyland to JW, #02598.

7.  portrait of Miss Florence Leyland
Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107). The model who posed for the completion of this portrait was Mary Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), JW's model and mistress [more].

8.  young lady
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more].

9.  fourth
The Three Girls (YMSM 88). It was never completed, and was destroyed at the time of JW's bankruptcy in 1879.

10.  curt letter
Probably #06072.

11.  Messrs Verity
JW's reply to a request from Messrs Verity for payment of bills incurred in Leyland's house was dated 4 January 1878 (#05965).