Charles Lang Freer to Rosalind Birnie Philip. Dec. 9, 1903

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Charles Lang Freer to Rosalind Birnie Philip. Dec. 9, 1903


Letter From Freer to Rosalind Birnie Philip


"The clipping you sent to me about the £5,000…paid by me for the "Princess" went the rounds of the American press…Of course you know the price I really paid…was £3,750."








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Detroit, Michigan,
December 9, 1903

Dear Miss. Birnie-Philip:—
Your letter of November 19th reached me about a week ago and ever since it came I have been hoping to visit New York and while there to look up all particulars of the “Gentle Art” which it is said is now in press in that city. But a number of important matters have kept me here. This afternoon, I am to start, and my first work after arrival in New York to-morrow morning shall be to learn everything possible about the forthcoming edition, including, if possible, under what rights the publisher is working. When all acts obtainable are gathered, I shall either telegraph or write you fully.
I am most sorry that Heinemann has the legal right to bring out further editions of the “Gentle Art” in England and the provinces. It does seem strange that Mr. Whistler’s love of limited editions did not cause him to restrict his book to one edition only. I feel with Mr. Webb grave doubts of Mr. Whistler having fully understood when he signed the Heinemann agreement. It is too bad, but nothing can be done, I presume.
I trust that you are still withholding your consent to the proposed Memorial Exhibition which the International Society are so strenuously demanding from you. Without your consent and cooperation, they cannot borrow many important works from America.
[page 2] If you give in, they will of course try to induce the Copley Society to ask its friends to favor the International Society with the pictures loaned to the Copley. But the Copley cannot induce the owners of one-third of the pictures to loan to any other exhibition unless they know it to be your wish. Furthermore, the Copley Society, in my opinion, would not comply with any request that might be made by the International Society unless you endorsed it. And all this is just as it should be.
Some others who would like to make exhibitions of Mr. Whistler’s work will find the undertaking a much more troublesome one than they fancy. You will find enclosed herein a copy of a request from the Arundell Club of Baltimore and my reply thereto. Is my answer in line with your own views?
Another copy of a request coming from the National Arts Club of New York is of far greater importance. In replying to the request of Mr. du Mond of the National Arts Club, I thought it wise to meet and confer with him before saying no to him. I want to find out just how deeply the Club, as a body, feel on this matter, and how much genuine reverence is connected with their desires. My first impression was to say to Mr. Du Mond that my experience of last winter with the Society of American Artists convinced me that the painters of New York, as a class, are too jealous of the works of the Master to treat them with common respect. A second [page 3] thought showed me the folly of telling the truth too far in advance, so I am keeping such ideas in reserve. The correspondence up to date is herewith enclosed. Future developments will go to you in fullest details. Then tell me what you think.
It is pleasant to know that Mr. Huish is acting nicely about the Venice plates.
You are entirely right about all expressions of thanks in connection with the loaning of pictures for the Boston Memorial. We are all working for the same good purpose, but your own efforts are so keenly appreciated over here that every one prominently identified with the movement feels personally obligated to you and wants to express their gratitude.
How unfortunate that so much is being said in the newspapers about high prices being now realized for Mr. Whistler’s pictures. It is especially bad while the Inheritance Tax experts are prowling about. I have been told that many of the articles published both here and abroad were inspired by art dealers who had axes to grind. Mr. Canfield writes me that he is to blame for one of the sensational items and feels much cut up about it. An artist friend called at Mr. Canfield’s home and asked to see his collection, which Mr. Canfield consented to show him. During their conversation, Mr. Canfield spoke of some recent transactions and said that Mr. Burrell had asked me L 7,500 for the “Fur Jacket”, [page 4] supposing that the conversation would never be repeated. But the story proved bigger than the man, and he hurried off and told it to a reporter of the New York Sun. The next day the story was spread all over America and Mr. Canfield found himself in a very uncomfortable place. He tells me it taught him a good lesson and gave him a dose of despair.
The clipping you sent to me about L 5,000 having been paid by me for the “Princess” went the rounds of the American press several days before your letter containing it arrived. It must have been cabled. Of course you know the price I really paid for the “Princess” was L 3,750.
I must not fail to tell you that the portrait of Mr. Whistler’s mother and about twenty other great rarities of the Menpes Collection of etchings were purchased by Obach for me, and they are now en route to Detroit. I am delighted to add such fine proofs to my oollection.
Last Sunday’s mail brought me your good letter of November 25th, containing inquiries about the Thames Lithotints. Let me say that all of the lot were given to me by Tom Way. He showed me the prints at his home and asked me to accept them with his compliments. I begged him to let me pay him for them, but he declined, saying that he could not sell any lithographs, but had a right to give away his own copies. Your letter gives me the thought that Mr. Way did [5] wrong, and put into circulation proofs that Mr. Whistler would have burned. I am glad that they fell into my hands and that they are now in yours. Do burn everyone of them at once. I never want to see the things again nor the wretch who gave them to me.
I hope that ere this letter reaches you, Mr. Whibley will have improved much in health and that consultations have been entirely avoided. When you are next writing to Mrs. Whibley do give her my cordial greetings and best wishes. I must write to her soon.
I enclose a letter from Mr. McBride for your perusal. Kindly let your brother see it.
Steel Preferred is still suffering with other stocks, but looks a little more hopeful to-day. The future is very difficult to forecast, but many think higher prices will prevail after January 1st. I am doubtful!
With affectionate messages,
Very sincerely yours,
(signed) Charles L. Freer


"Charles Lang Freer to Rosalind Birnie Philip. Dec. 9, 1903," in The Peacock Room, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Item #3538, (accessed April 14, 2024).