Little Chelsea (Memorial)
|Medium:||etching and drypoint|
|Size:||52 x 83 mm|
|Signed:||butterfly at lower left|
|No. of States:||2|
|Catalogues:||K.331; M.323; W.246|
|Impressions taken from this plate (3)|
Little Chelsea (Memorial) dates from 1887.
Whistler was at that time the rather autocratic President of the Society of British Artists. On behalf of the Society he sent a 'Memorial Address' congratulating the Queen, decorated with his drawings and etchings. Several drafts of the text survive, dating from July 1887, but the Album itself has disappeared. 1
1: Draft, [6 July 1887], GUW #05969.
The gift was acknowledged on 20 July 1887, when Henry Matthews (1868-1874) wrote to the Society of British Artists:
[I] 'have had the honour to lay before the Queen the loyal and dutiful Address of the Society of British Artists on the occasion of Her Majesty attaining the Fiftieth Year of Her Reign; - And I have to inform you that Her Majesty was pleased to receive the same very graciously; and to command me to express Her Majesty's appreciation of the beautiful and artistic illuminations of the Album in which the address was enclosed.' 2
Whistler recalled the preparation of the Album in detail:
'I found that the Academy and the Institute and the rest of them were preparing addresses to the Queen, and so I went to work too, and I prepared a most wonderful address ... I took a dozen folio sheets of my old Dutch etching paper. I had them bound by Zaehnsdorf. First, came the beautiful binding in yellow morocco and the inscription to Her Majesty ... and on the first page you found a beautiful little drawing of the royal arms that I had made myself ; the second page, with an etching of Windsor, as though 'there's where you live ! ' On the third page, the address began. I made decorations all round the text in water-colour, at the top the towers of Windsor, down one side a great battleship plunging through the waves, and below, the sun that never sets on the British Empire ... The following pages were not decorated, just the most wonderful address, explaining the age and dignity of the Society, its devotion to Her Glorious, Gracious Majesty, and suggesting the honour it would be if this could be recognised by a title that would show the Society to belong specially to Her. Then, the last page; you turned, and there was a little etching of my house at Chelsea ' And now, here's where I live!' And then you closed it, and at the back of the cover was the Butterfly.' 3
The album, bound in yellow morocco leather, was presented to Queen Victoria, who in thanks gave the Society of British Artists the title 'Royal Society of British Artists:
'This was all done and well on its way, and not a word was said to the Society ... But, all the time, my beautiful address was on its way to Windsor, and finally came the Queen's acknowledgment and command that the Society should be called Royal. I carried this to a meeting ... And then I got up with great solemnity, and I announced the honour conferred upon them by Her Gracious Majesty, and they jumped up and they rushed towards me with outstretched hands. ... the meeting over, then I sent for champagne." 4