Obvious printer's errors have been corrected. All other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been retained.
Page 170: The end punctuation of "What means this affectation of naivete." has been changed to "What means this affectation of naivete?".
All illustrations are sketches of (possibly) Butterflies.
THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES
JAMES ABBOTT MCNEILL WHISTLER
THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES
AN EXTRAORDINARY PIRATICAL PLOT
[Sidenote: "American Register," Paris, March 8, 1890.]
A most curiously well-concocted piratical scheme to publish, without his knowledge or consent, a complete collection of Mr. Whistler's writings, letters, pamphlets, lectures, &c., has been nipped in the bud on the very eve of its accomplishment. It appears that the book was actually in type and ready for issue, but the plan was to bring out the work simultaneously in England and America. This caused delay, the plates having to be shipped to New York, and the strain of secrecy upon the conspirators during the interval would seem to have been too great. In any case indications of surrounding mystery, quite sufficient to arouse Mr. Whistler's attention, brought about his rapid action. Messrs. Lewis and Lewis were instructed to take out immediate injunction against the publication in both England and America, and this information, at once cabled across, warning all publishers in the United States, exploded the plot, effectually frustrating the elaborate machinations of those engaged in it.
SEIZURE OF MR WHISTLER'S PIRATED WRITINGS
[Sidenote: "New York Herald," London Edition, March 23, 1890.]
This pirated collection of letters, writings, &c., to whose frustrated publication in this country and America we have already alluded, was seized in Antwerp, at the printers', on Friday last—the very day of its contracted delivery. The persistent and really desperate speculator in this volume of difficult birth, baffled in his attempt to produce it in London and New York had been tracked to Antwerp by Messrs. Lewis and Lewis; and he was finally brought down by Maitre Maeterlinck, the distinguished lawyer of that city.
THE EXPLODED PLOT
[Sidenote: "Pall Mall Gazette," March 27, 1890.]
With regard to this matter, to which we have already alluded on a previous occasion, Messrs. Lewis and Lewis have received the following letter from Messrs. Field and Tuer, of the Leadenhall Press, dated March 25, 1890:—
"We have seen the paragraph in yesterday's 'Pall Mall Gazette' relating to the publication of Mr. Whistler's letters. You may like to know that we recently put into type for a certain person a series of Mr. Whistlers letters and other matter, taking it for granted that Mr. Whistler had given permission. Quite recently, however, and fortunately in time to stop the work being printed, we were told that Mr. Whistler objected to his letters being published. We then sent for the person in question, and told him that until he obtained Mr. Whistler's sanction we declined to proceed further with the work, which, we may tell you, is finished and cast ready for printing, and the type distributed. From the time of this interview we have not seen or heard from the person in question, and there the matter rests."
MR. WHISTLER'S PAPER HUNT
[Sidenote: "Sunday Times," March 30, 1890.]
The fruitless attempt to publish without his consent, or rather in spite of his opposition, the collected writings of Mr. Whistler has developed into a species of chase from press to press, and from country to country. With an extraordinary fatality, the unfortunate fugitive has been invariably allowed to reach the very verge of achievement before he was surprised by the long arm of Messrs. Lewis and Lewis. Each defeat has been consequently attended with infinite loss of labour, material and money. Our readers have been told how the London venture came to nought, and how it was frustrated in America. The venue was then changed, and Belgium, as a neutral ground, was supposed possible; but here again, on the very day of its delivery, the edition of 2000 vols. was seized by M. le Procureur du Roi, and under the nose of the astounded and discomfited speculator, the packed and corded bales, of which he was about to take possession, were carried off in the Government van! The upshot of the untiring efforts of this persistent adventurer at length results in furnishing Mr. Whistler with the first and only copy of this curious work, which was certainly anything but the intention of its compiler, who clearly, judging from its contents, had reserved for him an unpleasing if not crushing surprise!
A GREAT LITERARY CURIOSITY
[Sidenote: "Pall Mall Gazette." March 1890.]
I have to-day seen the printed book itself of the Collected Writings of Mr. Whistler, whose publication has proved so comically impossible. The style of the preface and accessory comments is in the worst style of Western editorship; while the disastrous effect of Mr. Whistler's literature upon the one who has burned his fingers with it, is amusingly shown.
In the index occur such well-known names as Mr. J. C. Horsley, R.A., Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Linley Sambourne, Mr. Swinburne, Tom Taylor, Mr. Frith, and Rossetti. The famous catalogue of the "Second Exhibition of Venice Etchings, February 19, 1883," in which Mr. Whistler quotes the critics, is also given.
A LAST EFFORT
[Sidenote: "Pall Mall Gazette," April 9, 1890.]
We hear that a third attempt has been made to produce the pirated copy of Mr. Whistler's collected writings. Messrs. Lewis and Lewis have at once taken legal steps to stop the edition (printed in Paris) at the Customs. A cablegram has been received by Mr. Whistler's solicitors stating that Messrs. Stokes's name has been affixed to the title-page of the pirated book without the sanction of those publishers.
THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES
AS PLEASINGLY EXEMPLIFIED IN MANY INSTANCES, WHEREIN THE SERIOUS ONES OF THIS EARTH, CAREFULLY EXASPERATED, HAVE BEEN PRETTILY SPURRED ON TO UNSEEMLINESS AND INDISCRETION, WHILE OVERCOME BY AN UNDUE SENSE OF RIGHT
A NEW EDITION
Rights of Translation and Reproduction reserved.
To The rare Few, who, early in Life, have rid Themselves of the Friendship of the Many, these pathetic Papers are inscribed
"MESSIEURS LES ENNEMIS!"
[Sidenote: Professor John Ruskin in Fors Clavigera, July 2, 1877.]
"For Mr. Whistler's own sake, no less than for the protection of the purchaser, Sir Coutts Lindsay ought not to have admitted works into the gallery in which the ill-educated conceit of the artist so nearly approached the aspect of wilful imposture. I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."
[Sidenote: Lawsuit for Libel against Mr. Ruskin Nov. 15, 1878.]
In the Court of Exchequer Division on Monday, before Baron Huddleston and a special jury, the case of Whistler v. Ruskin came on for hearing. In this action the plaintiff claimed L1000 damages.
Mr. Serjeant Parry and Mr. Petheram appeared for the plaintiff; and the Attorney-General and Mr. Bowen represented the defendant.
Mr. SERJEANT PARRY, in opening the case on behalf of the plaintiff, said that Mr. Whistler had followed the profession of an artist for many years, both in this and other countries. Mr. Ruskin, as would be probably known to the gentlemen of the jury, held perhaps the highest position in Europe and America as an art critic, and some of his works were, he might say, destined to immortality. He was, in fact, a gentleman of the highest reputation. In the July number of Fors Clavigera there appeared passages in which Mr. Ruskin criticised what he called "the modern school," and then followed the paragraph of which Mr. Whistler now complained, and which was: "For Mr. Whistler's own sake, no less than for the protection of the purchaser, Sir Coutts Lindsay ought not to have admitted works into the gallery in which the ill-educated conceit of the artist so nearly approached the aspect of wilful imposture. I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." That passage, no doubt, had been read by thousands, and so it had gone forth to the world that Mr. Whistler was an ill-educated man, an impostor, a cockney pretender, and an impudent coxcomb.
Mr. WHISTLER, cross-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL, said: "I have sent pictures to the Academy which have not been received. I believe that is the experience of all artists.... The nocturne in black and gold is a night piece, and represents the fireworks at Cremorne."
"Not a view of Cremorne?"
"If it were called a view of Cremorne, it would certainly bring about nothing but disappointment on the part of the beholders. (Laughter.) It is an artistic arrangement. It was marked two hundred guineas."
"Is not that what we, who are not artists, would call a stiffish price?"
"I think it very likely that that may be so."
"But artists always give good value for their money, don't they?"
"I am glad to hear that so well established. (A laugh.) I do not know Mr. Ruskin, or that he holds the view that a picture should only be exhibited when it is finished, when nothing can be done to improve it, but that is a correct view; the arrangement in black and gold was a finished picture, I did not intend to do anything more to it."
"Now, Mr. Whistler. Can you tell me how long it took you to knock off that nocturne?"
... "I beg your pardon?" (Laughter.)
"Oh! I am afraid that I am using a term that applies rather perhaps to my own work. I should have said, How long did you take to paint that picture?"
"Oh, no! permit me, I am too greatly flattered to think that you apply, to work of mine, any term that you are in the habit of using with reference to your own. Let us say then how long did I take to—'knock off,' I think that is it—to knock off that nocturne; well, as well as I remember, about a day."
"Only a day?"
"Well, I won't be quite positive; I may have still put a few more touches to it the next day if the painting were not dry. I had better say then, that I was two days at work on it."
"Oh, two days! The labour of two days, then, is that for which you ask two hundred guineas!"
"No;—I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime." (Applause.)
"You have been told that your pictures exhibit some eccentricities?"
"Yes; often." (Laughter.)
"You send them to the galleries to incite the admiration of the public?"
"That would be such vast absurdity on my part, that I don't think I could." (Laughter.)
"You know that many critics entirely disagree with your views as to these pictures?"
"It would be beyond me to agree with the critics."
"You don't approve of criticism then?"
"I should not disapprove in any way of technical criticism by a man whose whole life is passed in the practice of the science which he criticises; but for the opinion of a man whose life is not so passed I would have as little regard as you would, if he expressed an opinion on law."
"You expect to be criticised?"
"Yes; certainly. And I do not expect to be affected by it, until it becomes a case of this kind. It is not only when criticism is inimical that I object to it, but also when it is incompetent. I hold that none but an artist can be a competent critic."
"You put your pictures upon the garden wall, Mr. Whistler, or hang them on the clothes line, don't you—to mellow?"
"I do not understand."
"Do you not put your paintings out into the garden?"
"Oh! I understand now. I thought, at first, that you were perhaps again using a term that you are accustomed to yourself. Yes; I certainly do put the canvases into the garden that they may dry in the open air while I am painting, but I should be sorry to see them 'mellowed.'"
"Why do you call Mr. Irving 'an arrangement in black'?" (Laughter.)
Mr. BARON HUDDLESTON: "It is the picture and not Mr. Irving that is the arrangement."
A discussion ensued as to the inspection of the pictures, and incidentally Baron Huddleston remarked that a critic must be competent to form an opinion, and bold enough to express that opinion in strong terms if necessary.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL complained that no answer was given to a written application by the defendant's solicitors for leave to inspect the pictures which the plaintiff had been called upon to produce at the trial. The WITNESS replied that Mr. Arthur Severn had been to his studio to inspect the paintings, on behalf of the defendant, for the purpose of passing his final judgment upon them and settling that question for ever.
Cross-examination continued: "What was the subject of the nocturne in blue and silver belonging to Mr. Grahame?"
"A moonlight effect on the river near old Battersea Bridge."
"What has become of the nocturne in black and gold?"
"I believe it is before you." (Laughter.)
The picture called the nocturne in blue and silver, was now produced in Court.
"That is Mr. Grahame's picture. It represents Battersea Bridge by moonlight."
BARON HUDDLESTON: "Which part of the picture is the bridge?" (Laughter.)
His Lordship earnestly rebuked those who laughed. And witness explained to his Lordship the composition of the picture.
"Do you say that this is a correct representation of Battersea Bridge?"
"I did not intend it to be a 'correct' portrait of the bridge. It is only a moonlight scene and the pier in the centre of the picture may not be like the piers at Battersea Bridge as you know them in broad daylight. As to what the picture represents that depends upon who looks at it. To some persons it may represent all that is intended; to others it may represent nothing."
"The prevailing colour is blue?"
"Are those figures on the top of the bridge intended for people?"
"They are just what you like."
"Is that a barge beneath?"
"Yes. I am very much encouraged at your perceiving that. My whole scheme was only to bring about a certain harmony of colour."
"What is that gold-coloured mark on the right of the picture like a cascade?"
"The 'cascade of gold' is a firework."
A second nocturne in blue and silver was then produced.
WITNESS: "That represents another moonlight scene on the Thames looking up Battersea Reach. I completed the mass of the picture in one day."
The Court then adjourned. During the interval the jury visited the Probate Court to view the pictures which had been collected in the Westminster Palace Hotel.
After the Court had re-assembled the "Nocturne in Black and Gold" was again produced, and Mr. WHISTLER was further cross-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL: "The picture represents a distant view of Cremorne with a falling rocket and other fireworks. It occupied two days, and is a finished picture. The black monogram on the frame was placed in its position with reference to the proper decorative balance of the whole."
"You have made the study of Art your study of a lifetime. Now, do you think that anybody looking at that picture might fairly come to the conclusion that it had no peculiar beauty?"
"I have strong evidence that Mr. Ruskin did come to that conclusion."
"Do you think it fair that Mr. Ruskin should come to that conclusion?"
"What might be fair to Mr. Ruskin I cannot answer."
"Then you mean, Mr. Whistler, that the initiated in technical matters might have no difficulty in understanding your work. But do you think now that you could make me see the beauty of that picture?"
The witness then paused, and examining attentively the Attorney-General's face and looking at the picture alternately, said, after apparently giving the subject much thought, while the Court waited in silence for his answer:
"No! Do you know I fear it would be as hopeless as for the musician to pour his notes into the ear of a deaf man. (Laughter.)
"I offer the picture, which I have conscientiously painted, as being worth two hundred guineas. I have known unbiassed people express the opinion that it represents fireworks in a night-scene. I would not complain of any person who might simply take a different view."
The Court then adjourned.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL, in resuming his address on behalf of the defendant on Tuesday, said he hoped to convince the jury, before his case closed, that Mr. Ruskin's criticism upon the plaintiff's pictures was perfectly fair and bona fide; and that, however severe it might be, there was nothing that could reasonably be complained of.... Let them examine the nocturne in blue and silver, said to represent Battersea Bridge. What was that structure in the middle? Was it a telescope or a fire-escape? Was it like Battersea Bridge? What were the figures at the top of the bridge? And if they were horses and carts, how in the name of fortune were they to get off? Now, about these pictures, if the plaintiff's argument was to avail, they must not venture publicly to express an opinion, or they would have brought against them an action for damages.
[Note 1: "Enter now the great room with the Veronese at the end of it, for which the painter (quite rightly) was summoned before the Inquisition of State."—Prof. JOHN RUSKIN: Guide to Principal Pictures, Academy of Fine Arts, Venice.]
After all, Critics had their uses. He should like to know what would become of Poetry, of Politics, of Painting, if Critics were to be extinguished? Every Painter struggled to obtain fame.
[Note 2: "I have now given up ten years of my life to the single purpose of enabling myself to judge rightly of art ... earnestly desiring to ascertain, and to be able to teach, the truth respecting art; also knowing that this truth was by time and labour definitely ascertainable."—Prof. RUSKIN: Modern Painters, Vol. III.
"Thirdly, that TRUTHS OF COLOUR ARE THE LEAST IMPORTANT OF ALL TRUTHS."—Mr. RUSKIN, Prof, of Art: Modern Painters, Vol. I. Chap. V.
"And that colour is indeed a most unimportant characteristic of objects, would be further evident on the slightest consideration. The colour of plants is constantly changing with the season ... but the nature and essence of the thing are independent of these changes. An oak is an oak, whether green with spring, or red with winter; a dahlia is a dahlia, whether it be yellow or crimson; and if some monster hunting florist should ever frighten the flower blue, still it will be a dahlia; but not so if the same arbitrary changes could be effected in its form. Let the roughness of the bark and the angles of the boughs be smoothed or diminished, and the oak ceases to be an oak; but let it retain its universal structure and outward form, and though its leaves grow white, or pink, or blue, or tri-colour, it would be a white oak, or a pink oak, or a republican oak, but an oak still."—JOHN RUSKIN, Esq., M.A., Teacher and Slade Prof. of Fine Arts: Modern Painters.]
No Artist could obtain fame, except through criticism.
[Note 3: "Canaletto, had he been a great painter, might have cast his reflections wherever he chose ... but he is a little and a bad painter."—Mr. RUSKIN, Art Critic.
"I repeat there is nothing but the work of Prout which is true, living, or right in its general impression, and nothing, therefore, so inexhaustively agreeable" (sic).—J. RUSKIN, Art Professor: Modern Painters.]
... As to these pictures, they could only come to the conclusion that they were strange fantastical conceits, not worthy to be called works of Art.
... Coming to the libel, the Attorney-General said it had been contended that Mr. Ruskin was not justified in interfering with a man's livelihood. But why not? Then it was said, "Oh! you have ridiculed Mr. Whistler's pictures." If Mr. Whistler disliked ridicule, he should not have subjected himself to it by exhibiting publicly such productions. If a man thought a picture was a daub he had a right to say so, without subjecting himself to a risk of an action.
[Note 4: "Now it is evident that in Rembrandt's system, while the contrasts are not more right than with Veronese, the colours are all wrong from beginning to end."—JOHN RUSKIN, Art Authority.]
"In conduct and in conversation, It did a sinner good to hear Him deal in ratiocination!"
He would not be able to call Mr. Ruskin, as he was far too ill to attend; but, if he had been able to appear, he would have given his opinion of Mr. Whistler's work in the witness-box.
He had the highest appreciation for completed pictures; and he required from an Artist that he should possess something more than a few flashes of genius!
[Note 5: "I was pleased by a little unpretending modern German picture at Dusseldorf, by Bosch, representing a boy carving a model of his sheep dog in wood."—J. RUSKIN: Modern Painters.]
[Note 6: "I have just said that every class of rock, earth and cloud must be known by the painter with geologic and meteorologic accuracy."—Slade Prof. RUSKIN: Modern Painters.]
"Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise; why shouldest thou destroy thyself!" ]
Mr. Ruskin entertaining those views, it was not wonderful that his attention should be attracted to Mr. Whistler's pictures. He subjected the pictures, if they chose, to ridicule and contempt. Then Mr. Ruskin spoke of "the ill-educated conceit of the artist, so nearly approaching the action of imposture." If his pictures were mere extravagances, how could it redound to the credit of Mr. Whistler to send them to the Grosvenor Gallery to be exhibited? Some artistic gentleman from Manchester, Leeds, or Sheffield might perhaps be induced to buy one of the pictures because it was a Whistler, and what Mr. Ruskin meant was that he might better have remained in Manchester, Sheffield, or Leeds, with his money in his pocket. It was said that the term "ill-educated conceit" ought never to have been applied to Mr. Whistler, who had devoted the whole of his life to educating himself in Art; but Mr. Ruskin's views as to his success did not accord with those of Mr. Whistler. The libel complained of said also, "I never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." What was a coxcomb? He had looked the word up, and found that it came from the old idea of the licensed jester who wore a cap and bells with a cock's comb in it, who went about making jests for the amusement of his master and family. If that were the true definition, then Mr. Whistler should not complain, because his pictures had afforded a most amusing jest! He did not know when so much amusement had been afforded to the British Public as by Mr. Whistler's pictures. He had now finished. Mr. Ruskin had lived a long life without being attacked, and no one had attempted to control his pen through the medium of a jury. Mr. Ruskin said, through him, as his counsel, that he did not retract one syllable of his criticism, believing it was right. Of course, if they found a verdict against Mr. Ruskin, he would have to cease writing, but it would be an evil day for Art, in this country, when Mr. Ruskin would be prevented from indulging in legitimate and proper criticism, by pointing out what was beautiful and what was not.
[Note 7: "Vulgarity, dulness, or impiety will indeed always express themselves through art, in brown and gray, as in Rembrandt."—Prof. JOHN RUSKIN: Modern Painters.]
[Note 8: "It is physically impossible, for instance, rightly to draw certain forms of the upper clouds with a brush; nothing will do it but the palette knife with loaded white after the blue ground is prepared."—JOHN RUSKIN, Prof. of Painting.]
[Note 9: "And thus we are guided, almost forced, by the laws of nature, to do right in art. Had granite been white and marble speckled (and why should this not have been, but by the definite Divine appointment for the good of man?), the huge figures of the Egyptian would have been as oppressive to the sight as cliffs of snow, and the Venus de Medicis would have looked like some exquisitely graceful species of frog."—Slade Professor JOHN RUSKIN.]
[Note 10: "The principal object in the foreground of Turner's 'Building of Carthage' is a group of children sailing toy boats. The exquisite choice of this incident ... is quite as appreciable when it is told, as when it is seen—it has nothing to do with the technicalities of painting; ... such a thought as this is something far above all art."—JOHN RUSKIN, Art Professor: Modern Painters.]
[Note 11: "It is especially to be remembered that drawings of this simple character [Prout's and W. Hunt's] were made for these same middle classes, exclusively; and even for the second order of middle classes, more accurately expressed by the term 'bourgeoisie.' They gave an unquestionable tone of liberal-mindedness to a suburban villa, and were the cheerfullest possible decorations for a moderate sized breakfast parlour, opening on a nicely mown lawn."—JOHN RUSKIN, Art Professor: Notes on S. Prout and W. Hunt.]
[Note 12: "It seems to me, and seemed always probable, that I might have done much more good in some other way."—Prof. JOHN RUSKIN, Art Teacher: Modern Painters, Vol. V.]
[Note 13: "Give thorough examination to the wonderful painting, as such, in the great Veronese ... and then, for contrast with its reckless power, and for final image to be remembered of sweet Italian art in its earnestness ... the Beata Catherine Vigri's St. Ursula, ... I will only say in closing, as I said of the Vicar's picture in beginning, that it would be well if any of us could do such things nowadays—and more especially if our vicars and young ladies could."—JOHN RUSKIN, Prof. of Fine Art: Guide to Principal Pictures, Academy of Fine Arts, Venice.]
Evidence was then called on behalf of the defendant. Witnesses for the defendant, Messrs. Edward Burne-Jones, Frith, and Tom Taylor.
Mr. EDWARD BURNE-JONES called.
Mr. BOWEN, by way of presenting him properly to the consideration of the Court, proceeded to read extracts of eulogistic appreciation of this artist from the defendant's own writings.
[Sidenote: "Of the estimate which shall be formed of Mr. Jones's own work....
"His work, first, is simply the only art-work at present produced in England which will be received by the future as 'classic' in its kind—the best that has been or could be."—Prof. RUSKIN: Fors Clavigera, July 2, 1877.]
The examination of witness then commenced; and in answer to Mr. BOWEN, Mr. JONES said: "I am a painter, and have devoted about twenty years to the study. I have painted various works, including the 'Days of Creation' and 'Venus's Mirror,' both of which were exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877. I have also exhibited 'Deferentia,' 'Fides,' 'St. George,' and 'Sybil.' I have one work, 'Merlin and Vivian,' now being exhibited in Paris. In my opinion complete finish ought to be the object of all artists. A picture ought not to fall short of what has been for ages considered complete finish."
Mr. BOWEN: "Do you see any art quality in that nocturne, Mr. Jones?"
Mr. JONES: "Yes ... I must speak the truth, you know".... (Emotion.)
Mr. BOWEN: ... "Yes. Well, Mr. Jones, what quality do you see in it?"
Mr. JONES: "Colour. It has fine colour, and atmosphere."
Mr. BOWEN: "Ah. Well, do you consider detail and composition essential to a work of Art?"
Mr. JONES: "Most certainly I do."
Mr. BOWEN: "Then what detail and composition do you find in this nocturne?"
Mr. JONES: "Absolutely none."
[Note 14: REFLECTION:
There is a cunning condition of mind that requires to know. On the Stock Exchange this insures safe investment. In the painting trade this would induce certain picture-makers to cross the river at noon, in a boat, before negotiating a Nocturne, in order to make sure of detail on the bank, that honestly the purchaser might exact, and out of which he might have been tricked by the Night!
Mr. BOWEN: "Do you think two hundred guineas a large price for that picture?"
Mr. JONES: "Yes. When you think of the amount of earnest work done for a smaller sum."
Examination continued: "Does it show the finish of a complete work of art?"
[Sidenote: "The action of imagination of the highest power in Burne Jones, under the conditions of scholarship, of social beauty, and of social distress, which necessarily aid, thwart, and colour it in the nineteenth century, are alone in art,—unrivalled in their kind; and I know that these will be immortal, as the best things the mid-nineteenth century in England could do, in such true relations as it had, through all confusion, retained with the paternal and everlasting Art of the world."—JOHN RUSKIN, LL.D.: Fors Clavigera, July 2, 1877.]
"Not in any sense whatever. The picture representing a night scene on Battersea Bridge, is good in colour, but bewildering in form; and it has no composition and detail. A day or a day and a half seems a reasonable time within which to paint it. It shows no finish—it is simply a sketch. The nocturne in black and gold has not the merit of the other two pictures, and it would be impossible to call it a serious work of art. Mr. Whistler's picture is only one of the thousand failures to paint night. The picture is not worth two hundred guineas."
Mr. BOWEN here proposed to ask the witness to look at a picture of Titian, in order to show what finish was.
[Note 15: "I believe the world may see another Titian, and another Raffaelle, before it sees another Rubens."—Mr. RUSKIN.]
[Note 16: ... "The Butcher's Dog, in the corner of Mr. Mulready's 'Butt,' displays, perhaps, the most wonderful, because the most dignified, finish ... and assuredly the most perfect unity of drawing and colour which the entire range of ancient and modern art can exhibit. Albert Durer is, indeed, the only rival who might be suggested."—JOHN RUSKIN Slade Professor of Art: Modern Painters.]
Mr. SERJEANT PARRY objected.
Mr. BARON HUDDLESTON: "You will have to prove that it is a Titian."
Mr. BOWEN: "I shall be able to do that."
Mr. BARON HUDDLESTON: "That can only be by repute. I do not want to raise a laugh, but there is a well-known case of 'an undoubted' Titian being purchased with a view to enabling students and others to find out how to produce his wonderful colours. With that object the picture was rubbed down, and they found a red surface, beneath which they thought was the secret, but on continuing the rubbing they discovered a full length portrait of George III. in uniform!"
The witness was then asked to look at the picture, and he said: "It is a portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti, and I believe it is a real Titian. It shows finish. It is a very perfect sample of the highest finish of ancient art. The flesh is perfect, the modelling of the face is round and good. That is an 'arrangement in flesh and blood!'"
[Note 17: ... "I feel entitled to point out that the picture by Titian, produced in the case of Whistler v. Ruskin, is an early specimen of that master, and does not represent adequately the style and qualities which have obtained for him his great reputation—one obvious point of difference between this and his more mature work being the far greater amount of finish—I do not say completeness—exhibited in it ... and as the picture was brought forward with a view to inform the jury as to the nature of the work of the greatest painter, and more especially as to the high finish introduced in it, it is evident that it was calculated to produce an erroneous impression on their minds, if indeed any one present at the inquiry can hold that those gentlemen were in any way fitted to understand the issues raised therein.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"Nov. 28." Extract of a letter to the Editor of the Echo.]
The witness having pointed out the excellences of that portrait, said: "I think Mr. Whistler had great powers at first, which he has not since justified. He has evaded the difficulties of his art, because the difficulty of an artist increases every day of his professional life."
Cross-examined: "What is the value of this picture of Titian?"—"That is a mere accident of the saleroom."
"Is it worth one thousand guineas?"—"It would be worth many thousands to me."
[Sidenote: "It was just a toss up whether I became an Artist or an Auctioneer."—W. P. FRITH, R.A.
He must have tossed up.
Mr. FRITH was then examined: "I am an R.A.; and have devoted my life to painting. I am a member of the Academies of various countries. I am the author of the 'Railway Station,' 'Derby Day,' and 'Rake's Progress.' I have seen Mr. Whistler's pictures, and in my opinion they are not serious works of art. The nocturne in black and gold is not a serious work to me. I cannot see anything of the true representation of water and atmosphere in the painting of 'Battersea Bridge.' There is a pretty colour which pleases the eye, but there is nothing more. To my thinking, the description of moonlight is not true. The picture is not worth two hundred guineas. Composition and detail are most important matters in a picture. In our profession men of equal merit differ as to the character of a picture. One may blame, while another praises, a work. I have not exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. I have read Mr. Ruskin's works."
A decidedly honest man—I have not heard of him since.
Mr. Frith here got down.
Mr. TOM TAYLOR—Poor Law Commissioner, Editor of Punch, and so forth—and so forth:—"I am an art critic of long standing. I have been engaged in this capacity by the Times, and other journals, for the last twenty years. I edited the 'Life of Reynolds,' and 'Haydon.' I have always studied art. I have seen these pictures of Mr. Whistler's when they were exhibited at the Dudley and the Grosvenor Galleries. The 'Nocturne' in black and gold I do not think a serious work of art." The witness here took from the pockets of his overcoat copies of the Times, and with the permission of the Court, read again with unction his own criticism, to every word of which he said he still adhered. "All Mr. Whistler's work is unfinished. It is sketchy. He, no doubt, possesses artistic qualities, and he has got appreciation of qualities of tone, but he is not complete, and all his works are in the nature of sketching. I have expressed, and still adhere to the opinion, that these pictures only come 'one step nearer pictures than a delicately tinted wall-paper.'"
To perceive in Ruskin's army Tom Taylor, his champion—whose opinion he prizes—Mr. Frith, his ideal—was gratifying. But to sit and look at Mr. Burne Jones, in common cause with Tom Taylor—whom he esteems, and Mr. Frith—whom he respects—conscientiously appraising the work of a confrere—was a privilege!!
This ended the case for the defendant.
Verdict for plaintiff. Damages one farthing.
Professor Ruskin's Group
My dear Sambourne—I know I shall be only charmed, as I always am, by your work, and if I am myself its subject, I shall only be flattered in addition.
[Sidenote: The World, Dec. 11, 1878.]
[Sidenote: A pleasant resume of the situation—in reply to Mr. Sambourne's expressed hope that his historical cartoon in Punch might not offend.]
Punch in person sat upon me in the box; why should not the most subtle of his staff have a shot? Moreover, whatever delicacy and refinement Tom Taylor may still have left in his pocket (from which, in Court, he drew his ammunition) I doubt not he will urge you to use, that it may not be wasted. Meanwhile you must not throw away sentiment upon what you call "this trying time."
To have brought about an "Arrangement in Frith, Jones, Punch and Ruskin, with a touch of Titian," is a joy! and in itself sufficient to satisfy even my craving for curious "combinations."—Ever yours,
Whistler v. Ruskin
ART & ART CRITICS
Chelsea, Dec. 1878.
Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics
The fin mot and spirit of this matter seems to have been utterly missed, or perhaps willingly winked at, by the journals in their comments. Their correspondents have persistently, and not unnaturally as writers, seen nothing beyond the immediate case in law—viz., the difference between Mr. Ruskin and myself, culminating in the libel with a verdict for the plaintiff.
Now the war, of which the opening skirmish was fought the other day in Westminster, is really one between the brush and the pen; and involves literally, as the Attorney-General himself hinted, the absolute "raison d'etre" of the critic. The cry, on their part, of "Il faut vivre," I most certainly meet, in this case, with the appropriate answer, "Je n'en vois pas la necessite."
Far from me, at that stage of things, to go further into this discussion than I did, when, cross-examined by Sir John Holker, I contented myself with the general answer, "that one might admit criticism when emanating from a man who had passed his whole life in the science which he attacks." The position of Mr. Ruskin as an art authority we left quite unassailed during the trial. To have said that Mr. Ruskin's pose among intelligent men, as other than a litterateur is false and ridiculous, would have been an invitation to the stake; and to be burnt alive, or stoned before the verdict, was not what I came into court for.
Over and over again did the Attorney-General cry out aloud, in the agony of his cause, "What is to become of painting if the critics withhold their lash?"
As well might he ask what is to become of mathematics under similar circumstances, were they possible. I maintain that two and two the mathematician would continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five. We are told that Mr. Ruskin has devoted his long life to art, and as a result—is "Slade Professor" at Oxford. In the same sentence, we have thus his position and its worth. It suffices not, Messieurs! a life passed among pictures makes not a painter—else the policeman in the National Gallery might assert himself. As well allege that he who lives in a library must needs die a poet. Let not Mr. Ruskin flatter himself that more education makes the difference between himself and the policeman when both stand gazing in the Gallery.
There they might remain till the end of time; the one decently silent, the other saying, in good English, many high-sounding empty things, like the cracking of thorns under a pot—undismayed by the presence of the Masters with whose names he is sacrilegiously familiar; whose intentions he interprets, whose vices he discovers with the facility of the incapable, and whose virtues he descants upon with a verbosity and flow of language that would, could he hear it, give Titian the same shock of surprise that was Balaam's, when the first great critic proffered his opinion.
This one instance apart, where collapse was immediate, the creature Critic is of comparatively modern growth—and certainly, in perfect condition, of recent date. To his completeness go qualities evolved from the latest lightnesses of to-day—indeed, the fine fleur of his type is brought forth in Paris, and beside him the Englishman is but rough-hewn and blundering after all; though not unkindly should one say it, as reproaching him with inferiority resulting from chances neglected.
The truth is, as compared with his brother of the Boulevards, the Briton was badly begun by nature.
To take himself seriously is the fate of the humbug at home, and destruction to the jaunty career of the art critic, whose essence of success lies in his strong sense of his ephemeral existence, and his consequent horror of ennuyering his world—in short, to perceive the joke of life is rarely given to our people, whilst it forms the mainspring of the Parisian's savoir plaire. The finesse of the Frenchman, acquired in long loafing and clever cafe cackle—the glib go and easy assurance of the petit creve, combined with the chic of great habit—the brilliant blague of the ateliers—the aptitude of their argot—the fling of the Figaro, and the knack of short paragraphs, which allows him to print of a picture "C'est bien ecrit!" and of a subject, "C'est bien dit!"—these are elements of an ensemble impossible in this island.
Still, we are "various" in our specimens, and a sense of progress is noticeable when we look about among them.
Indications of their period are perceptible, and curiously enough a similarity is suggested, by their work, between themselves and the vehicles we might fancy carrying them about to their livelihood.
Tough old Tom, the busy City 'Bus, with its heavy jolting and many halts; its steady, sturdy, stodgy continuance on the same old much worn way, every turning known, and freshness unhoped for; its patient dreary dulness of daily duty to its cheap company—struggling on to its end, nevertheless, and pulling up at the Bank! with a flourish from the driver, and a joke from the cad at the door.
Then the contributors to the daily papers: so many hansoms bowling along that the moment may not be lost, and the a propos gone for ever. The one or two broughams solemnly rolling for reviews, while the lighter bicycle zigzags irresponsibly in among them for the happy Halfpennies.
What a commerce it all is, to be sure!
No sham in it either!—no "bigod nonsense!" they are all "doing good"—yes, they all do good to Art. Poor Art! what a sad state the slut is in, an these gentlemen shall help her. The artist alone, by the way, is to no purpose, and remains unconsulted; his work is explained and rectified without him, by the one who was never in it—but upon whom God, always good, though sometimes careless, has thrown away the knowledge refused to the author—poor devil!
The Attorney-General said, "There are some people who would do away with critics altogether."
I agree with him, and am of the irrationals he points at—but let me be clearly understood—the art critic alone would I extinguish. That writers should destroy writings to the benefit of writing is reasonable. Who but they shall insist upon beauties of literature, and discard the demerits of their brother litterateurs? In their turn they will be destroyed by other writers, and the merry game goes on till truth prevail. Shall the painter then—I foresee the question—decide upon painting? Shall he be the critic and sole authority? Aggressive as is this supposition, I fear that, in the length of time, his assertion alone has established what even the gentlemen of the quill accept as the canons of art, and recognise as the masterpieces of work.
Let work, then, be received in silence, as it was in the days to which the penmen still point as an era when art was at its apogee. And here we come upon the oft-repeated apology of the critic for existing at all, and find how complete is his stultification. He brands himself as the necessary blister for the health of the painter, and writes that he may do good to his art. In the same ink he bemoans the decadence about him, and declares that the best work was done when he was not there to help it. No! let there be no critics! they are not a "necessary evil," but an evil quite unnecessary, though an evil certainly.
Harm they do, and not good.
Furnished as they are with the means of furthering their foolishness, they spread prejudice abroad; and through the papers, at their service, thousands are warned against the work they have yet to look upon.
And here one is tempted to go further, and show the crass idiocy and impertinence of those whose dicta are printed as law.
How he of the Times has found Velasquez "slovenly in execution, poor in colour—being little but a combination of neutral greys and ugly in its forms"—how he grovelled in happiness over a Turner—that was no Turner at all, as Mr. Ruskin wrote to show—Ruskin! whom he has since defended. Ah! Messieurs, what our neighbours call "la malice des choses" was unthought of, and the sarcasm of fate was against you. How Gerard Dow's broom was an example for the young; and Canaletti and Paul Veronese are to be swept aside—doubtless with it. How Rembrandt is coarse, and Carlo Dolci noble—with more of this kind. But what does it matter?
[Note 18: June 6, 1874]
"What does anything matter!" The farce will go on, and its solemnity adds to the fun.
Mediocrity flattered at acknowledging mediocrity, and mistaking mystification for mastery, enters the fog of dilettantism, and, graduating connoisseur, ends its days in a bewilderment of bric-a-brac and Brummagem!
"Taste" has long been confounded with capacity, and accepted as sufficient qualification for the utterance of judgment in music, poetry, and painting. Art is joyously received as a matter of opinion; and that it should be based upon laws as rigid and defined as those of the known sciences, is a supposition no longer to be tolerated by modern cultivation. For whereas no polished member of society is at all affected at admitting himself neither engineer, mathematician, nor astronomer, and therefore remains willingly discreet and taciturn upon these subjects, still would he be highly offended were he supposed to have no voice in what is clearly to him a matter of "Taste"; and so he becomes of necessity the backer of the critic—the cause and result of his own ignorance and vanity! The fascination of this pose is too much for him, and he hails with delight its justification. Modesty and good sense are revolted at nothing, and the millennium of "Taste" sets in.
The whole scheme is simple: the galleries are to be thrown open on Sundays, and the public, dragged from their beer to the British Museum, are to delight in the Elgin Marbles, and appreciate what the early Italians have done to elevate their thirsty souls! An inroad into the laboratory would be looked upon as an intrusion; but before the triumphs of Art, the expounder is at his ease, and points out the doctrine that Raphael's results are within the reach of any beholder, provided he enrol himself with Ruskin or hearken to Colvin in the provinces. The people are to be educated upon the broad basis of "Taste," forsooth, and it matters but little what "gentleman and scholar" undertake the task.
Eloquence alone shall guide them—and the readiest writer or wordiest talker is perforce their professor.
The Observatory at Greenwich under the direction of an Apothecary! The College of Physicians with Tennyson as President! and we know that madness is about. But a school of art with an accomplished litterateur at its head disturbs no one! and is actually what the world receives as rational, while Ruskin writes for pupils, and Colvin holds forth at Cambridge.
Still, quite alone stands Ruskin, whose writing is art, and whose art is unworthy his writing. To him and his example do we owe the outrage of proffered assistance from the unscientific—the meddling of the immodest—the intrusion of the garrulous. Art, that for ages has hewn its own history in marble, and written its own comments on canvas, shall it suddenly stand still, and stammer, and wait for wisdom from the passer-by?—for guidance from the hand that holds neither brush nor chisel? Out upon the shallow conceit! What greater sarcasm can Mr. Ruskin pass upon himself than that he preaches to young men what he cannot perform! Why, unsatisfied with his own conscious power, should he choose to become the type of incompetence by talking for forty years of what he has never done!
Let him resign his present professorship, to fill the chair of Ethics at the university. As master of English literature, he has a right to his laurels, while, as the populariser of pictures he remains the Peter Parley of painting.
The Art Critic of the "Times"
[Sidenote: Mr. Tom Taylor's acknowledgment of presentation copy of Mr. Whistler's "Art and Art Critics," with "Sans rancune" inscribed upon fly-leaf by the author.]
"Sans rancune," by all means, my dear Whistler; but you should not have quoted from my article, of June 6th, 1874, on Velasquez, in such a way as to give exactly the opposite impression to that which the article, taken as a whole, conveys.
[Sidenote: The World, Jan. 15, 1879.]
I appreciate and admire Velasquez as entirely, and allow me to say, as intelligently, as yourself. I have probably seen and studied more of his work than you have. And I maintain that the article you have garbled in your quotation gives a fair and adequate account of the picture it deals with—"Las Meninas"—and one which any artist who knows the picture would, in essentials, subscribe to.
God help the artists if ever the criticism of pictures falls into the hands of painters! It would be a case of vivisection all round.
Your pamphlet is a very natural result of your late disagreeable legal experiences, though not a very wise one.
If the critics are not better qualified to deal with the painters than the painter in your pamphlet shows himself qualified to deal with the critics, it will be a bad day for art when the hands that have been trained to the brush lay it aside for the pen.
If you had read my article on Velasquez, I cannot but say that you have made an unfair use of it, in quoting a detached sentence, which, read with the context, bears exactly the opposite sense from that you have quoted it as bearing.
This is a bad "throw-off" in the critical line; whether it affect "le premier litterateur venu" or yours always,
P.S.—As your attack on my article is public, I reserve to myself the right of giving equal publicity to this letter.
LAVENDER SWEEP, Jan, 6, 1879.
Dead for a ducat, dead! my dear Tom: and the rattle has reached me by post.
[Sidenote: The World, Jan. 15, 1879.]
"Sans rancune," say you? Bah! you scream unkind threats and die badly.
Why squabble over your little article? You did print what I quote, you know, Tom; and it is surely unimportant what more you may have written of the Master. That you should have written anything at all is your crime.
No; shrive your naughty soul, and give up Velasquez, and pass your last days properly in the Home Office.
Set your house in order with the Government for arrears of time and paper, and leave vengeance to the Lord, who will forgive my "garbling" Tom Taylor's writing.
THE WHITE HOUSE, Jan. 8, 1879.
Pardon me, my dear Whistler, for having taken you au serieux even for a moment.
I ought to have remembered that your penning, like your painting, belongs to the region of "chaff." I will not forget it again; and meantime remain yours always,
LAVENDER SWEEP, Jan. 9, 1879.
Why, my dear old Tom, I never was serious with you, even when you were among us. Indeed, I killed you quite, as who should say, without seriousness, "A rat! A rat!" you know, rather cursorily.
[Sidenote: The World, Jan. 15, 1879]
Chaff, Tom, as in your present state you are beginning to perceive, was your fate here, and doubtless will be throughout the eternity before you. With ages at your disposal, this truth will dimly dawn upon you; and as you look back upon this life, perchance many situations that you took au serieux (art-critic, who knows? expounder of Velasquez, and what not) will explain themselves sadly—chaff! Go back!
THE WHITE HOUSE, Jan. 10, 1879.
[Sidenote: Vanity Fair, Jan 11, 1879.]
Mr. Whistler has written a discord in black and white. It is a strong saying, excellent in diction, broadly and boldly set down in slashing words....
The point Mr. Whistler raises and enforces is that criticism of painting other than by painters is monstrous, and not to be tolerated.... Mr. Ruskin's "high sounding empty things" would, he says, "give Titian the same shock of surprise that was Balaam's when the first great critic proffered his opinion." ... The inference ... is that all the world, competent and incompetent together, must receive the painter's work in silence, under pain of being classed with Balaam's ass....
If, finding himself ill received or ill understood, he has to say, "You cannot understand me," he must also say, "I did not understand myself and you, to whom I speak, sufficiently well to make you understand me."
There could be no better illustration of all this than that Mr. Whistler has suggested of Balaam's ass. For the Ass was right, although, nay, because he was an ass. "What have I done unto thee," said he, "that thou hast smitten me these three times?" "Because thou hast mocked me," replies Balaam—Whistler; whereupon the Angel of the Lord rebukes him and says, "The ass saw me," so that Balaam is constrained to bow his head and fall flat on his face. And thus indeed it is. The ass sees the Angel of the Lord there where the wise prophet sees nothing, and, by her seeing, saves the life of the very master who, for reward, smites her grievously and wishes he had a sword that he might kill her.
Let Balaam not forget that after all he rides upon the ass, that she has served him well ever since she was his until this day, and that even now he is on his way with her to be promoted unto very great honour by the Princes of Balak. And let him remember that whatever can speak may at any moment have a word to say to him which it were best he should hear.
The Point acknowledged
[Sidenote: Vanity Fair, Jan. 18, 1879.]
Well hit! my dear Vanity, and I find, on searching again, that historically you are right.
The fact, doubtless, explains the conviction of the race in their mission, but I fancy you will admit that this is the only Ass on record who ever did "see the Angel of the Lord!" and that we are past the age of miracles.
THE WHITE HOUSE, Jan. 11, 1879.
[Sidenote: The Saturday Review, June 1, 1867. P. G. Hamerton.]
In the "Symphony in White No. III." by Mr. Whistler there are many dainty varieties of tint, but it is not precisely a symphony in white. One lady has a yellowish dress and brown hair and a bit of blue ribbon, the other has a red fan, and there are flowers and green leaves. There is a girl in white on a white sofa, but even this girl has reddish hair; and of course there is the flesh colour of the complexions.
The Critic's Mind Considered
How pleasing that such profound prattle should inevitably find its place in print! "Not precisely a symphony in white ... for there is a yellowish dress ... brown hair, etc.... another with reddish hair ... and of course there is the flesh colour of the complexions."
Bon Dieu! did this wise person expect white hair and chalked faces? And does he then, in his astounding consequence, believe that a symphony in F contains no other note, but shall be a continued repetition of F, F, F.?... Fool!
Chelsea, June 1867.
A Troubled One
[Sidenote: The World, July 3, 1878.]
The "Season Number" of Vanity Fair contains ... Mr. Whistler's etching of "St. James's Street" is sadly disappointing.
[Sidenote: The World, July 10, 1878.]
Dear World—Atlas, overburdened with the world and its sins, may well be relieved from the weight of one wee error—a sort of last straw that bothers his back. The impression in Vanity Fair that disappoints him is not an etching at all, but a reproduction for that paper by some transfer process.
Atlas has the wisdom of ages, and need not grieve himself with mere matters of art. "Il n'est pas necessaire que vous sachiez ces choses-la, mon reverend pere!"
"Confidences" with an Editor
TO THE EDITOR OF THE "HOUR."
Sir,—I have read the intelligent remarks of your critic upon my pictures, and am happy to be able to remove, I think, the "melancholy" impression left upon his mind by the supposition that "the best works are not of recent date." Permit me to reassure him, for the paintings he speaks of in glowing terms—notably "the full-length portrait of a young girl," which he overwhelms me by comparing to Velasquez, as well as the two life-size portraits in black, "in which there is an almost entire negation of colour" (though I, who am, he says, a colourist, did not know it)—are my latest works, and but just completed.
May I still farther correct a misconception? The etchings and dry-points in the gallery do not form a complete set. There are only fifty exhibited, making about half the number I have executed.
Again, it was from no feeling that "my works were not seen to advantage when placed in juxtaposition with those of an essentially different kind," that I "determined to have an exhibition of my own, where no discordant elements should distract the spectator's attention." It is true that occasionally it has been borne in upon my mind that those whose "works are of an essentially different kind," are unwilling to place mine in juxtaposition with their own.
My wish has been, though, to prove that the place in which works of art are shown may be made as free from "discordant elements which distract the spectators' attention" as the works themselves.
Marvelling greatly that the "principle" that has led me (in his eyes at least) to paint so that he speaks of me in the same breath with Velasquez, should be "founded on fallacy,"—I remain, sir, your obedient servant,
June 10, 1874.
[Sidenote: The World, Dec. 8, 1880.]
At the Gallery of the Fine Art Society in New Bond Street, an exhibition has been opened of the etchings of Venice, executed by Mr. Whistler. Exhibitions are sometimes of slender constitution nowadays. Mr. Whistler's etchings are twelve in number, of unimportant dimensions, and of the slightest workmanship. They convey a certain sense of distance and atmosphere, otherwise it cannot be said that they are of particular value or originality. They rather resemble vague first intentions, or memoranda for future use, than designs completely carried out. Probably every artist coming from Venice brings with him some such outlines as these in his sketch-books. Apparently, so far as his twelve etchings are to be considered as evidence in the matter, Venice has not deeply stirred either Mr. Whistler or his art.
[Sidenote: The World, Dec. 29, 1880.]
Atlas, mon bon, mefiez-vous de vos gens! Your art gentleman says that Mr. Whistler exhibits twelve etchings, "slight in execution and unimportant in size." Now the private assassin you keep, for us, need not be hampered by mere connoisseurship in the perpetration of his duty—therefore, passe, for the execution—but he should not compromise his master's reputation for brilliancy, and print things that he who runs may scoff at.
Seriously, then, my Atlas, an etching does not depend, for its importance, upon its size. "I am not arguing with you—I am telling you." As well speak of one of your own charming mots as unimportant in length!
Look to it, Atlas. Be severe with your man. Tell him his "job" should be "neatly done." I could cut my own throat better; and if need be, in case of his dismissal, I offer my services.
Meanwhile, yours joyously,
The Painter-Etcher Papers
[Sidenote: "A Storm in an AEsthetic Teapot."
The Cuckoo, April 11, 1881.]
The exhibition of etchings at the Hanover Gallery has been the occasion of one of those squabbles which amuse everybody—perhaps, even including the quarrellers themselves. Some etchings, exceedingly like Mr. Whistler's in manner, but signed "Frank Duveneck," were sent to the Painter-Etchers' Exhibition from Venice. The Painter-Etchers appear to have suspected for a moment that the works were really Mr. Whistler's; and, not desiring to be the victims of an easy hoax on the part of that gentleman, three of their members—Dr. Seymour Haden, Dr. Hamilton, and Mr. Legros—went to the Fine Art Society's Gallery, in New Bond Street, and asked one of the assistants there to show them some of Mr. Whistler's Venetian plates. From this assistant they learned that Mr. Whistler was under an arrangement to exhibit and sell his Venetian etchings only at the Fine Art Society's Gallery; but, even if these Painter-Etchers really believed that "Frank Duveneck" was only another name for James Whistler, this information about the Fine Art Society's arrangement with him need not have shaken that belief, for the nom de plume might easily have been adopted with the concurrence of the society's leading spirits. Nor is it altogether certain that the Painter-Etchers did anything more than compare, for their own satisfaction as connoisseurs, the works of Mr. Whistler and "Frank Duveneck." The motive of their doing so may have been misunderstood by the Fine Art Society's assistant with whom they conferred.
Be that as it may, this assistant thought fit to repeat to Mr. Whistler what had passed, and also his own impressions as to the motive of the comparison and the inquiries which the Painter-Etchers had instituted. Whereupon Mr. Whistler has addressed a letter to Mr. Seymour Haden (who is, by the way, his brother-in-law), of which all that need be here said, is that it is extremely characteristic of Mr. Whistler.
[Sidenote: The Cuckoo, April 30, 1881.]
Some time ago I referred to a storm in an "aesthetic tea-pot" that was brewed and had burst in the Fine Art Society's Gallery, in Bond Street, in re Mr. Whistler's Venice Etchings. It seems to me that Mr. Seymour Haden, Mr. Legros, and Mr. Hamilton stumbled on an artistic mare's nest, that they rashly suggested that Mr. Whistler had been guilty of gross misfeasance in publishing etchings in an assumed name, and that they are now trying to get out of the scrape as best they may. This is, however, simply an opinion formed on perusal of the following documents, which I here present to my readers to judge of:
The following paragraph was some time ago sent to me with this letter:—
"If the Editor of the 'Cuckoo' should see his way to the publication of the accompanying paragraph as it stands, twenty copies may be sent, for circulation among the Council of the Society of Painter-Etchers, to Mr. Piker, newsvendor, Shepherd's Market."
"MR. WHISTLER AND THE PAINTER-ETCHERS.—Our explanation of this 'Storm in a Tea-pot' turns out to have been in the main correct. It appears that not only were the three gentlemen who went to the Fine Art Society's Gallery to look at Mr. Whistler's etchings guiltless of offence, but that the object of their going there was actually less to show that Mr. Whistler was than that he was not the author of the etchings which for a moment had puzzled them.
"For this, indeed, they seem to have given each other—in the presence of the blundering assistant, of course—three very distinct reasons.
"Firstly, that, as already stated, Mr. Seymour Haden had quite seriously written to Mr. Duveneck to buy the etchings.
"Secondly, that they at once accepted as satisfactory and sufficient the explanation given them of Mr. Whistler's obligations to the Fine Art Society; and, thirdly, though this count appears to have somehow slipped altogether out of the indictment—they were one and all of opinion that, taken all round, the Duveneck etchings were the best of the two (sic)!!!
"It is a pity a clever man like Mr. Whistler is yet not clever enough to see that while habitual public attacks on a near relative cannot fail to be, to the majority of people, unpalatable, they are likely to be, when directed against a brother etcher, even suspecte."
I did not at the time "see my way" to publishing the paragraph "as it stands," but, having subsequently received the following correspondence, I think it only right to give Mr. Piker's paragraph publicity, along with the letters subjoined:—
"THE FINE ART SOCIETY," 148 NEW BOND STREET. March 18, 1881.
[Sidenote: Letter from Mr. Huish to Mr. Haden.]
"To Seymour Haden, Esq.—My dear Sir,—Mr. Whistler has called upon me respecting your visit here yesterday with Mr. Legros and Dr. Hamilton, the purport of which had been communicated to him by Mr. Brown."
"He is naturally indignant that, knowing, as you apparently did, that he was under an engagement not to publish for a certain time any etchings of Venice except those issued by us, you should suggest that they were his work, and had been sent in by him under a nom de plume."
"He considers that it is damaging to his reputation in connection with us, and he requests me to write and ask you whether you adhere to your opinion or retract it."
"Believe me to remain, yours faithfully,
"MARCUS B. HUISH."
"38 HERTFORD STREET, MAYFAIR, W. March 21, 1881.
[Sidenote: Letter from Mr. Haden to Mr. Huish.]
"To M. Huish, Esq.—Dear Sir,—I am in receipt of a letter from you, dated the 18th inst., in which you first impute to me an opinion which I have never held, and then call me to account for that opinion. To a peremptory letter so framed, I shall not be misunderstood if I simply decline to plead."
"Meanwhile, that I was not of opinion that the etchings in our hands were by Mr. Whistler is conclusively proved by the fact that on the day after their reception I had written to Mr. Duveneck to arrange for their purchase!"
"Be this, however, as it may, I can have no hesitation on the part both of myself and of the gentlemen engaged with me in a necessary duty, in expressing our sincere regret if, by a mistaken representation of our proceedings, Mr. Whistler has been led to believe that we had said or implied anything which could give him pain or reflect in any way on his reputation either with you or your directors."
"Faithfully yours, "F. SEYMOUR HADEN."
"ARTS CLUB," HANOVER SQUARE.
[Sidenote: Letter from J. M'N. Whistler to Mr. Haden. March 29, 1881.]
"To Seymour Haden, Esq.—Sir—Mr. Huish handed me your letter of the 21st inst., since when I have waited in vain for the true version that, I doubted not, would follow the 'mistaken representation' you regret I should have received."
"Now I must ask that you will, if possible, without further delay, give me a thorough explanation of your visit to the Fine Art Society's Gallery on Friday evening, the 17th inst.,—involving, as it did, a discussion of my private affairs."
"Did you, accompanied by M. Legros and Dr. Hamilton, call at the Fine Art Society's rooms on that date, and ask to see Mr. Whistler's etchings?"
"Did you there proceed to make a careful and minute examination of these, and then ask Mr. Brown if Mr. Whistler had done other etchings of Venice?"
"Upon his answer in the affirmative, did you ask Mr. Brown if any of the other plates were large ones, and, notably, whether Mr. Whistler had done any other plate of the subject called 'The Riva'?"
"Did you ask to see the early states of Mr. Whistler's etchings?"
"Did you say to Mr. Brown, 'Now, is not Mr. Whistler under an engagement with the Fine Art Society to publish no Venice etchings for a year?' or words to that effect? and upon Mr. Brown's assurance that such was the case, did you request him to go with you to the Hanover Gallery?"
"Did you there produce for his inspection three large Venice etchings, and among them the 'Riva' subject?"
"Did you then incite Mr. Brown to detect, in these works, the hand of Mr. Whistler?"
"Did you point out details of execution which, in your opinion, betrayed Mr. Whistler's manner?"
"Did you say, 'You see these etchings are signed "Frank Duveneck," and I have written to that name and address for their purchase, but I don't believe in the existence of such a person,' or words to that effect?"
"If this be not so,
"Why did you take Mr. Brown over to the Hanover Gallery?"
"Why did you show him Mr. Duveneck's Venice etchings?"
"Why did you question him about my engagement with the Fine Art Society?"
"Is it officially, as the Painter-Etchers' President, that you pry about the town?"
"Does the Committee sanction your suggestions? and have you permitted yourself these 'proceedings' with the full knowledge and approval of the 'dozen or more distinguished men seated in serious council,' as described by yourself in the Pall Mall Gazette?"
"Of what nature, pray, is the 'necessary duty' that has led two medical men and a Slade Professor to fail as connoisseurs, and blunder as detectives?"
"'Vat shall de honest man do in my closet? Dere is no honest man dat shall come in my closet!'"
"Copies of this correspondence will be sent to members of your Committee."
To this last letter, Mr. Seymour Haden has not as yet sent any answer, and here the matter rests. As requested, we have sent Mr. Piker the copies he requires for distribution.
THE EDITOR OF THE "CUCKOO."
"ARTS CLUB," May 10, 1881.
To the Committee of the Painter-Etchers' Society:
[Sidenote: Letter to the Committee of "Painter-Etchers' Society."]
Gentlemen,—I have hitherto, in vain, written to Sir William Drake, as secretary of the Painter-Etchers' Society, and feeling convinced that his elaborate silence cannot possibly be the expression of any intended discourtesy on the part of the Committee, as a body, but that it would rather indicate that they had not been consulted in the matter at all, I now address myself to you, and beg that you will kindly inform me whether the Committee, as represented by their officers, endorse the late acts of their President, or whether they intend taking any steps towards refusing to share the shame and ridicule that have accrued from certain "proceedings" described by Mr. Haden as a "necessary duty," in the exercise of which he was officially engaged in conjunction with Dr. Hamilton and M. Legros.
That you may clearly see how current the matter has become, I have the honour, Gentlemen, to send you herewith, for your serious consideration, extracts from the daily press, and thus, as you will read, carry out myself the first intention of a certain speculative Piker, newsvendor, Shepherd's Market, who had purposed circulating among you "twenty copies" of the enclosed literary venture—curtailed, it is true, to the original "Piker paragraph," and unaccompanied by the Piker twenty-penny prospect; the printing of which may—who knows?—have caused a wavering on the part of Piker, and have left you deprived of his labour after all.
Piker offers matter with authority—and here I would point out the close proximity of Shepherd's Market to Hertford Street, Mayfair!—most suggestive is such contiguity. The newsvendor's stall and the doctor's office within hail of each other!
Surely I may, without indiscretion, congratulate the President upon Piker's English and also upon the Pecksniffian whine about the "brother-in-law"—rather telling in its way—but shallow! shallow!—for after all, Gentlemen, a brother-in-law is not a connection calling for sentiment—in the abstract, rather an intruder than "a near relation"—indeed, "near relation" is mere swagger!
Meanwhile, the insinuation of jealousy of the "brother-etcher" is, as Piker puts it, "suspecte"—very!—and modest!—and transparent!
To the last paper I have added the cutting from the former Cuckoo (Piker's earlier effort) so that you have the occasion of perceiving how the progressive Piker party have gained in courage—until, in direct contradiction to their first anxiety and hesitation, we reach the final overwhelming certainty of the three representative gentlemen, whose visit to the Fine Art Society's rooms, it would now appear, was absolutely to prove to the "blundering assistant" that some etchings he had never seen, and, consequently never had questioned;—of the very existence of which, in short, he was utterly unconscious,—were by a Mr. Duveneck, of whom he had never heard, and not by Mr. Whistler!—a fact that in his whole life he had never been in a position to dispute—and of which the three Painter-Etchers themselves were the only people who had ever had any doubt!
Really, they either doubted Duveneck, or they didn't doubt Duveneck!—Now, if the Piker party didn't doubt Duveneck, who the devil did the Piker party doubt? And why, may I ask, does Mr. Haden, two days after the disastrous blunder in Bond Street, volunteer the following note of explanation to Mr. Brown, the assistant?—
"38 HERTFORD STREET, MAYFAIR, W. March 19, 1881.
"To Ernest Brown, Esq.—Dear Sir,—We know all about Mr. Frank Duveneck, and are delighted to have his etchings.—Yours faithfully,"
"F. SEYMOUR HADEN."
It will be remembered that the little expedition to the Fine Art Society's Gallery took place on Thursday evening, the 17th of March. On Friday, the 18th, Mr. Huish wrote to Mr. Haden demanding an explanation; and on Saturday, the 19th, this over-diplomatic and criminating note was sent to Mr. Brown,—altogether unasked for, and curiously difficult to excuse!—"Methinks, he doth protest too much!"
Further comment I believe to be unnecessary.
I refer you, Gentlemen, to my letter of March 29th, which Mr. Haden has never been able to answer—and merely point out that, the "blundering assistant" was the only one who did not blunder at all—since he alone, refrained from folly, and, notwithstanding all exhortation, steadily refused, in the presence of cunning connoisseurs, to mistake the work of one man for that of another.
I have, Gentlemen, the honour to be, Your obedient servant, J. MCNEILL WHISTLER.
May 18, 1881.
TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE PAINTER-ETCHERS' SOCIETY.
May I, without impertinence, ask what really does constitute the "Painter-Etcher" "all round," as Piker has it?—for, of these three gentlemen who have so markedly distinguished themselves in that character, two certainly are not painters—and one doesn't etch!
[Sidenote: The World, Nov. 14, 1883.]
A supposititious conversation in Punch brought about the following interchange of telegrams:—
From Oscar Wilde, Exeter, to J. McNeill Whistler, Tite Street.—Punch too ridiculous—when you and I are together we never talk about anything except ourselves.
From Whistler, Tite Street, to Oscar Wilde, Exeter.—No, no, Oscar, you forget—when you and I are together, we never talk about anything except me.
[Sidenote: The World, June 1, 1881.]
"A foolish man's foot is soon in his neighbour's house; but a man of experience is ashamed of him."
My dear James,—I see from a weekly paper that your late residence, the White House, in Tite Street, is now occupied by Mr. Harry Quilter, "the excellent art critic and writer on art," or words to that effect. This is the great man who has succeeded Mr. Tom Taylor on the Times, and whose vagaries in art criticism you and I, my dear James, have previously noticed....
[Sidenote: The Times, May 2, 1881.]
Close to this is another portrait of extreme interest, and, though of another kind, it is not inappropriately near Mr. Hunt's work. This is Mr. John Ruskin, painted by Mr. Herkomer. It is difficult to dissociate this picture, as regards the merit of its painting, from the interest which attaches to it as being the first oil portrait we have ever seen of our great art critic.... The picture remains a singularly fine one, and is, in our opinion, Mr. Herkomer's best portrait.
A Straight Tip
[Sidenote: The World, May 18, 1881.]
"Ne pas confondre intelligence avec gendarmes"—but surely, dear Atlas, when the art critic of the Times, suffering possibly from chronic catarrh, is wafted in at the Grosvenor without guide or compass, and cannot by mere sense of smell distinguish between oil and water colour, he ought, like Mark Twain, "to inquire."
Had he asked the guardian or the fireman in the gallery, either might have told him not to say that one of the chief interests of Mr. Herkomer's large water-colour drawing of Mr. Ruskin "attaches to it as being the first oil portrait we have ever seen of our great art critic"! Adieu.
An Eager Authority
[Sidenote: The World, Feb. 9, 1881.]
Mr. Whistler knows how to defend himself so perkily that it is a pleasure to attack him. I hasten, therefore, with joy, to submit to you, dear Atlas, who are growing so very clever at your languages, the following crotchets and quavers—shall I call them? for Mr. Whistler is just now full of "notes"—in American-Italian; they are from his delightful brown-paper catalogue. To begin with, "Santa Margharita" is wrong; it must be either Margarita or Margherita; the other is impossible Italian. Then who or what is "San Giovanni Apostolo et Evangelistae"? Does the sprightly and shrill McNeill mean this for Latin? And is the "Cafe Orientale" intended to be French or Italian? It has an e too many for French, and an f too few for Italian. "Piazetta," furthermore, does duty for "Piazzetta." Finally I give up "Campo Sta. Martin." I don't know what that can be. The Italian Calendar has a San Martino and a Santa Martina, but Sta. Martin is very curious. The catalogue is exceedingly short, but a few of the names are right.
[Sidenote: The World, Feb. 16, 1881]
Touche!—and my compliments to your "Correspondent," Atlas, cheri—far from me to justify spelling of my own! But who could possibly have supposed an orthographer loose! Evidently too "ung vieulx qui a moult roule en Palestine et aultres lieux!"
What it is to be prepared, though! Atlas, mon pauvre ami, you know the story of the witness who, when asked how far he stood from the spot where the deed was done, answered unhesitatingly—"Sixty-three feet seven inches!" "How, sir," cried the prosecuting lawyer—"how can you possibly pretend to such accuracy?" "Well," returned the man in the box, "you see I thought some d——d fool would be sure to ask me, and so I measured."
'Arry in the Grosvenor
Atlas—In spite of the Kyrle Society, I don't appeal to the middle classes; for I read in the Times that 'Arry won't have me. I am ranked with the caviare of his betters, and add not to the relish of his winkles and tea.
Also, why troubles he about many things?
[Sidenote: The World, May 17, 1882.]
But, alas! as is aptly remarked in one of the weekly papers, "'Arry has taken to going to the Grosvenor;" and "ce n'est pas tout que d'etre honnete," he says, lightly paraphrasing Alfred de Musset, "il faut etre joli garcon!"
And so he blooms into an aesthete of his own order. To have seen him, O my wise Atlas, was my privilege and my misery; for he stood under one of my own "harmonies"—already with difficulty gasping its gentle breath—himself an amazing "arrangement" in strong mustard-and-cress, with bird's-eye belcher of Reckitt's blue; and then and there destroyed absolutely, unintentionally, and once for all, my year's work!
Atlas, shall these things be?
TO OSCAR ON HIS "TOUR."
[Sidenote: The World, Feb. 15, 1882.]
Oscar—We, of Tite Street and Beaufort Gardens, joy in your triumphs and delight in your success; but we are of opinion that, with the exception of your epigrams, you talk like "S—— C—— in the provinces"; and that, with the exception of your knee-breeches, you dress like 'Arry Quilter.
Atlas, how could you!
[Sidenote: The World, Feb. 22, 1882.]
I know you carry the World on your back, and am not surprised that my note to Oscar, on its way, should have fallen from your shoulders into your dainty fingers; but why present it in the state of puzzle?
Besides, your caution is one-sided and unfair; for if you print S—— C——, why not A—— Q——? Why not X Y Z at once?
And how unlike me! Instead of the frank recklessness which has unfortunately become a characteristic, I am, for the first time, disguised in careful timidity, and discharge my insinuating initials from the ambush of innuendo.
My dear Atlas, if I may not always call a spade a spade, may I not call a Slade Professor, Sidney Colvin?
[Sidenote: With compliments to the Committee of the "Hoboken" Etching Club upon the occasion of receiving an invitation to compete in an etching tourney whose first condition was that the plate should be at least two feet by three.
I. That in Art, it is criminal to go beyond the means used in its exercise.
II. That the space to be covered should always be in proper relation to the means used for covering it.
III. That in etching, the means used, or instrument employed, being the finest possible point, the space to be covered should be small in proportion.
IV. That all attempts to overstep the limits insisted upon by such proportion, are inartistic thoroughly, and tend to reveal the paucity of the means used, instead of concealing the same, as required by Art in its refinement.
V. That the huge plate, therefore, is an offence—its undertaking an unbecoming display of determination and ignorance—its accomplishment a triumph of unthinking earnestness and uncontrolled energy—endowments of the "duffer."
VI. That the custom of "Remarque" emanates from the amateur, and reflects his foolish facility beyond the border of his picture, thus testifying to his unscientific sense of its dignity.
VII. That it is odious.
VIII. That, indeed, there should be no margin on the proof to receive such "Remarque."
IX. That the habit of margin, again, dates from the outsider, and continues with the collector in his unreasoning connoisseurship—taking curious pleasure in the quantity of paper.
X. That the picture ending where the frame begins, and, in the case of the etching, the white mount, being inevitably, because of its colour, the frame, the picture thus extends itself irrelevantly through the margin to the mount.