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James McNeill Whistler Collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Whistler, James McNeill, 1834-1903.

James McNeill Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, but left the United States at the age of twenty-one, never to return. He lived as an expatriate, alternating between London and Paris depending on the local artistic climate at the time. Whistler was the painter of that most American of works "Arrangement in Grey and Black" (better known as "Whistler's Mother"). Although a contemporary of the Impressionists, Whistler walked his own path from the Realism of Courbet to an aesthetic approach of "Art for Art's Sake."

The collection consists chiefly of selected autograph letters and notes of the American-born, England-based painter and etcher James McNeill Whistler, addressed to his friend Jonathan Sturges, Princeton Class of 1885, the majority of which are signed with Whistler's drawing of a butterfly. Spanning the years 1895 to 1901 and posted from England and France, the letters relate to the affair of the "Baronet and the Butterfly," a public scandal which concerned an oil portrait of Lady Eden which Whistler refused to deliver to Sir William Eden because the payment (on Valentine's day) was inadequate. Whistler later published various documents about the matter in a book titled Eden Versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly: A Valentine with a Verdict. Included in the letters are some sketches done by Whistler for an autograph for Sturgess. Also included are newspaper clippings concerning the scandal collected by Sturges. There are three other letters by Whistler, one to E. K. Johnson regarding the price of some of Whistler's artwork, another to Mr. Marchmont regarding sending his artwork by railroad, and the third inviting William Rossetti for dinner. In addition,there is a lengthy letter (ca. 1870) by Anna Matilda McNeill (the painter' mother) to her sister, containing references to her young son.

Folders are arranged by accession number.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

Whistler's letters to Jonathan Sturges were a gift of Mrs. Mary Fuller Chalmers Wilson, in memory of Jonathan Sturges, on 1952 January 9 and 1960.

Autographed letter to Mr. Marchmont was the gift of Mrs. B. Langdon Tyler in 1953 April

Autographed letter to Anna Matilda Whistler was the gift of G. Gordon Hammill, Princeton Class of 1896, on 1955 February 23

Auotgraphed letter to Mr. Johnson was the gift of Mr. Sylvan Laurence Froelich, Princeton Class of 1914, on 1956 November 19

Autographed letter to Rossetti was purchased in 1993 October Various AM.

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 22, 2008. Finding aid written by Natalie Kim on November 18, 2008. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Collection Inventory

Letter from R. Bernie Philips to Jonathan Sturges enquiring about Whistler's correspondence with Sturges, 1910 January 20. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence between James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Jonathan Sturges, 1895-1901. 4 folders.
Physical Description

4 folders

Whistler "cuttings" or newspaper clippings, some with autograph notes by Sturges and autograph envelopes, 1895-1928. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from James Abbott McNeill Whistler to Mr. Marchmont, 1899. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from Anna Matilda McNeill Whistler to her sister, 1870. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from James Abbott McNeill Whistler to Mrs. E.K. Johnson, 1903 February 1. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from James Abbott McNeill Whistler to Jonathan Sturges, 1812 March 18. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter from James Abbott McNeill Whistler to William [Rossetti], circa 1870. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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