Whistler

I was asked to give a speech at the Fine Art Society to mark the foundation of the Whistler Society.   The reason I was asked was because he was never made an RA.   Why ?  He himself was keen.   He started exhibiting his engravings in the annual exhibition in 1859.   This was how his work came to public notice.   In 1864, he exhibited four works – The Scarf, Old Battersea Bridge, The Golden Screen and The little White Girl.   He was sufficiently confident of his abilities to put himself forward as a candidate.   But when, on 8 May 1866, six elections were held, Whistler received not a single vote.   Why ?  Too cocky ?  Too American ?  Wrong style of painting ?  He wrote to complain.   His biographer says that ‘to the day of his death he would have accepted membership’.

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