Aquisition: letter from Whistler to Monet

We are delighted to highlight this important acquisition, acquired with assistance from the National Fund for Acquisitions.

The item is a letter from James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) to Claude Monet (1840-1926), two hugely influential figures in the history of Western art. It is brief but very significant. It was sent in 1887 when Whistler was President of the Royal Society of British Artists. He encourages Monet to send ‘ … two or three of your beautiful canvases, so gay with colour – so that I can have some notes of joy on the walls of my Galleries this winter … ‘ [translated from French in the original letter].


Extract from Whistler’s letter to Monet (MS Whistler M525)

Whistler is known to have asked Monet to exhibit with the Royal Society of British Artists and the catalogue for the Royal Society’s Winter Exhibition 1887-8 lists four paintings exhibited by Monet, but until now we had no record of first-hand comments made by Whistler to Monet about his art and its possible reception in an international forum. As a non-British artist, Monet’s inclusion was unusual.

It is signed with Whistler’s butterfly signature. This evolved over time. You can see a selection of Whistler’s butterfly signatures here.


Whistler’s butterfly signature (MS Whistler M525)

We hold 14 letters from Monet to Whistler that came in the collection gifted to the University by Whistler’s executor but none from Whistler to Monet. This acquisition fills in a crucial gap in this correspondence and provides a significant part of the ‘missing half’. Whistler’s letters vary considerably in their length and content. This is a very succinct but expressive one! The letter has already been incorporated into an event as part of Being Human’s Cultural Encounters.

The University of Glasgow is an unrivalled centre for the study of Whistler’s life and art, having the world’s largest permanent display of the artist’s work and the largest single collection of his correspondence. See the University’s Whistler Portal.



Categories: Archives and Special Collections


2 replies


  1. Cultural Encounters: What’s in a Letter? – University of Glasgow Library
  2. ARLIS Conference Visit 2019 – University of Glasgow Library Blog

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