Charles Lang Freer to Margaret Watson, March 9, 1905

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Charles Lang Freer to Margaret Watson, March 9, 1905


Letter from Freer to Margaret Watson


“A fresh shipment of pottery reached Yamanaka last Saturday and on Monday I had the pleasure of examining it and found three or four masterpieces. One is a Corean jar of splendid form, about fourteen inches high, covered with a marvelously soft cream colored glaze with two small splashes of sea green on the shoulder which blends the piece into one of the finest harmonies I have ever seen in pottery outside of that known as the Rakka or Babylonian find."








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#33 Ferry Avenue,
Detroit, Michigan,
March 9th, 1905

My dear Miss Watson:—
Your good letter of March 8th is received and I am delighted to know that you find in the Obach etchings and lithographs so large a number of interesting prints. Do keep the lot as a long as you wish and after you have made your selection, be good enough to return them to me and I in turn will forward them to Messrs. Obach & Company. It is quite right to take as much time as you wish for examination and study and I am perfectly sure that Mr. Mayer, of Obach & Company, would prefer that you consider the proofs most thoughtfully before purchasing any of them. Mr. Mayer is a collector himself, as his father was before him, and while he is a very keen business man, he is also a thorough student and in my opinion the leading print connoisseur of all Europe. He understands the art of collecting and would be disappointed if he felt that his prints were not given the most careful scrutiny and appreciative consideration.
Now about further consignments, I agree perfectly with you that it would be better or yourself and Mr. Mayer to have direct correspondence and I suggest that after you have made your selection from the present shipment that the business hereafter be done in such a manner as you and he may decide upon. I will be very pleased to write Mr. Mayer when I return the present shipment, telling him [page 2] of your interest in Mr. Whistler’s work and asking him to treat you exactly the same as he does me, and I wish you to particularly feel that there is not the slightest probability of any misunderstanding or jealousy ever arising between you and me. As you know, my collection already includes specimens of nearly all of Mr. Whistler’s etched work. So far as I know, there are less than thirty etchings still wanted to complete my collection, but in addition to these missing ones there will occasionally appear some particular state or proof of plates already in my possession which I would like the opportunity of securing. Of these particular proofs Mr. Mayer has full knowledge and he will continue to send them to me as heretofore. He will also from time to time doubtless secure duplicates of superior proofs already in my collection and these he will, I know, be very glad to send to you on approval. I will further add that in the event of his sending to me duplicates of fine things which I already possess, I will be glad to send them to you for your examination, should you care to have me do so. Now you see how easy it will be to arrange for future treasures for us both from the same source.
I am very glad that you are going to visit Europe during the coming spring or early summer. I must send you a note of introduction to Mr. Mayer and it may be that fate will favor us in permitting us to meet in London. If so, I would enjoy very much taking you to Mr. Mayer’s establishment and looking through his collections with you. He has in his shop the finest lot of prints on sale anywhere.
[page 3] I am planning to sail direct to Paris as early in May as I can possibly leave. The Whistler exhibition in Paris open April 25th and closes one month later and I am anxious to get to Paris early enough to see and study leisurely everything in the exhibition. From Paris I shall go to England and be in London and vicinity up to about June 1st. After that time my plans will depend upon certain arrangements now under consideration. It would be delightful if we could meet both in Paris and London. I am hoping that we may do so.
By the way, may I inquire if you remitted direct to Messrs. Obach & Company for the first lot of etchings? If not, you may send your check to me at your convenience and I will send you a proper receipt. I have sent draft for the entire lot. If you have already remitted to Obach & Company, they will give me credit for the amount I sent them in settlement of the prints you kept. Perhaps in settling for those now in your possession, you had better, whenever you are ready to do so, send your check to me and I will remit direct to London. But after the present settlement, future payments had better be made by you direct to Obach & Company as it will avoid duplicating work. Of course the little work there is in connection with this matter I would gladly do, but it will simplify matters if we make separate and individual settlements.
I am much interested in what you have written concerning the Carter sale and your affection for the “Dance House Nocturne” as well as other of the finer prints in the collection. Judging from what I heard in New York on Monday last, you did very wisely [page 4] in not bidding any higher on these prints than you did as there were several unlimited orders there, and surely the Carter estate made very handsome profits out of the prices realized.
I appreciate the spirit that leads one to make the other fellow pay dearly for competition at an auction and I have been guilty too often I fear, but experience is beginning to teach me that this practice really operates against the real lovers of art. When I find that I cannot buy a thing that I may want every so badly, I find a higher pleasure in preventing some other collector from exhausting his means too quickly. Of this I was reminded mostly pleasantly by an old time friends of mine at the Waggaman sale. Mr. Sam Peters, of New York, bid against me on the unique Bizen flower vase with the two elephant’s head handles, running it up to a pretty high figure, some where near $300. Then he stopped bidding and I secured the piece. At the next day’s sale, he came over to me and congratulated me upon the purchase and told me that he had intended to bid up to $1000 for the Bizen vase, but when the competition settled down between the two of us, he hadn’t the heart to continue to bid. And so I find as the years go on and the same circle of people with new additions gather at the annual sales, interest deepens in each other and while there always will be a certain rivalry, there is, I am glad to say, a decided interest felt in helping each other to a fair division of the treasures to be distributed and the bond of friendly interest felt in each others collections constantly grows stronger. In fact, some of my choicest friendships have begun in auction rooms.
[page 5]
I saw Miss Nordlinger during my recent visit East and she said many very nice things about you and your purchase of the Rakka pottery. It is a good specimen and I am sure it harmonizes with your wonderful Tryon.
I saw the Tibetan paintings and I fear their beauty carried me completely off my feet. I rbought back with me nine of the paintings, a very selfish act I fear. However, in the remaining lot there are two or three excellent ones. The most expensive one, priced at $320, I rejected because of the price. It seemed to me cheap enough in one sense, but ridiculously high in comparison with those still finer which were marked as low as $60 and $80 each. I rejected another one because it seemed to me entirely lacking in beauty. Excepting this particular one lacking in beauty, all of the others are worth having and are not to my mind dear, excepting the one at $320. Bing bought the entire lot at an absurdly low price and the man from whom he purchase them bought them direct from the Lama Temple in Pekin for the ridiculous sum of twenty taels.
I got this information from Miss Nordlinger and feel at liberty to tell it to you, but hope it will not go beyond yourself and Mr. Morse. The ones selected by me run from $60 to $120 each and although I knew Bing is making tremendous profits at this price, I could not conscientiously ask Miss Nordlinger to reduce her price. I consider the Tibetan paintings as very important additions to my collections. Some of them are as exquisite in color as the fine things of Sung and Early Ming Periods. The [page 6] drawing, too, in some of the paintings is very remarkable. My principal objection to them as works of art is the fact that the designs seem almost petty and too much in miniature. However, in the lot chosen by me two or three specimens are free of these imperfections.
A fresh shipment of pottery reached Yamanaka last Saturday and on Monday I had the pleasure of examining it and found three or four masterpieces. One is a Corean jar of splendid form, about fourteen inches high, covered with a marvelously soft cream colored glaze with two small splashes of sea green on the shoulder which blends the piece into one of the finest harmonies I have ever seen in pottery outside of that known as the Rakka or Babylonian find.
This letter has already grown into almost a volume and in closing let me add my appreciation of your good letter, and cordial greetings to yourself and Mr. and Mrs. Morse.
Always sincerely yours,
Charles L. Freer

Miss Margaret Watson,
1408 Ridge Avenue,
Evanston, Ills.


"Charles Lang Freer to Margaret Watson, March 9, 1905," in The Peacock Room, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Item #3566, (accessed April 14, 2024).

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