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Frederick Wedmore, 1844-1921

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 9 July 1844
Place of Birth: Richmond Hill, Clifton


Frederick Wedmore, an English art critic, was the eldest son of Thomas Wedmore, Druids Stoke, Stoke Bishop. In 1870 he married Martha Clapham, the youngest daughter of J. Peele Clapham of Burley Grange, Wharfedale, who was treasurer of the County Courts. They had one daughter, Millicent.


Wedmore was educated at Weston-super-Mare, Lausanne and Paris. He held the post of art critic to the Standard from 1878, and also contributed to the Nineteenth Century and Pall Mall Magazine.

Wedmore was a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, from which Whistler had resigned in 1867.

Whistler described how one evening in 1874 he snubbed Wedmore who was 'the distinguished guest' at a dinner party. He declared, 'Wedmore has never forgiven me.'

Whistler's treatment of Wedmore, coupled with the derogatory comments Whistler made about critics in Art and Art Critics (1878), caused Wedmore to fiercely defend his position as art critic in an article in the Nineteenth Century (August 1879), which was later reprinted in Four Masters of Etching (1883): 'That only the artist should write on art by continued reiteration may convince the middle-class public that has little of the instinct of art. But, sirs, not so easily can you dispense with the services of Diderot and Ruskin.' He also declared that Whistler had 'never mastered the subtleties of accurate form'.

In the winter of 1883 a second exhibition of Whistler's Venice etchings was held at the Fine Art Society's. The catalogue which Whistler designed for this show included quotations from critics with the heading, 'Out of their own mouths shall ye judge them'. Wedmore's article was misquoted so that it read 'I do not wish to understand it' rather than 'understate it'. This catalogue was later reprinted in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890). In a letter to the Standard in 1902 Whistler described Wedmore condescendingly as 'Podsnap' (#09448).

However, Wedmore keenly admired Whistler's etchings and wrote a number of books dealing with the subject. He wrote to Whistler in July 1886 concerning his catalogue, Whistler's Etchings, to be published in that year, that 'I began making it for my own use since I have taken not only to extremely enjoy but to live with a good many of your Etchings'. He enthusiastically declared, 'The best will live with the best of Rembrant's' (#06290).

Wedmore also commented favourably on Whistler's pastels and watercolours, e.g. The Red Doorway m0795, Black and red m0936. Full length female figure m1235 was bought by Wedmore in December 1889 for £1.8.0.


Wedmore, Frederick, Four Masters of Etching, London, 1883; Wedmore, F., 'Mr Whistler's Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Gray', Academy, vol. 25, 24 May 1884, p. 374; Wedmore, F., Whistler's Etchings: A Study and a Catalogue, London, 1886; Wedmore, F., Etching in England, London, 1895; Wedmore, F., Exhibition of Etchings by J. McNeill Whistler, London, 1903; Wedmore, F., 'The Place of Whistler', Nineteenth Century and After, vol. 55, 1904, pp. 665-75; Wedmore, F., Whistler and others, London, 1906; Wedmore, F., Some of the Moderns, London, 1909; Wedmore, F., Etchings, London, 1911; Wedmore, F., Memories, London, 1912; Lugt, Frits, Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes: marques estampillèes et écrites de collections particulières et publiques; marques de marchands, de monteurs et d'imprimeurs; etc..., Amsterdam, 1921, no. 1053.

Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.