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
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.
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 photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.