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Paul Marks Collection on James McNeill Whistler

Portrait of James McNeil WhistlerAlthough the Freer Gallery of Art is generally well-known as an Asian art museum, it also houses a no-less-important collection of a large number of paintings and etchings by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) as well as paintings by fourteen other American artists. Whistler, a long-time, close friend of Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) was an American painter, artist and designer who lived in Europe for most of his productive years as an artist. Whistler’s interest in Japanese art gave an important influence on Freer’s collecting activities.

Since its foundation in 1923, the Library of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery has been actively collecting materials on Whistler. In 2000 and 2004, the Library was extremely fortunate to receive the Marks Collection, a donation of over 1,000 books and pamphlets about Whistler. Thanks to Paul Marks’s important donation, together with the library’s own holdings on Whistler, the Freer-Sackler Library now has one of the largest collections of printed materials on Whistler.

Paul Marks is the former president of Montserrat College of Art and the former chancellor of higher education in Massachusetts. His longtime interest in art and artists led to the founding of the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham. Marks has been an active scholar and author on Whistler for more than twenty years; his many publications include James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent: Two Annotated Bibliographies (1986).

The Paul Marks Collection on James McNeill Whistler is the fruitful result of many years of painstaking effort by Paul Marks to assemble a complete collection of printed sources by and on Whistler. The Collection covers a wide range of materials, from limited editions to a copy of a single–leaf house sale flyer of Whistler’s former residence in London, as well as books with Whistler’s handwritten annotations, original etchings and lithographs. Some very interesting titles in the Collection include: the 1893 edition of Stéphanie Mallarmé’s Vers et Prose [Poems and Verse], featuring Whistler's lithographic portrait of the poet; a rare copy of the suppressed Paris edition of Whistler's book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies; and Whistler's 1882 pamphlet, The Paddon Papers, one of two known existing copies (the other is in the British Library). Marks’s copy includes Whistler’s handwritten comments. Also in the collection is The Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey (1855), with Whistler's second published engraving.

The Marks Collection is housed in the library and searchable online. Items can be found within the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' web catalog by searching the subject "Whistler, James McNeill, 1834-1903," clicking the list containing 436 items, then limiting the results by "Freer Sackler Gallery Library." Titles in the Marks Collection are listed with the location "Freer Sackler Marks Collection."

Find out more about the Paul Marks Special Collection on James McNeill Whistler.

—Reiko Yoshimura

Image: Portrait of James McNeil Whistler, from:

Author: Du Maurier, George, 1834-1896. Title: The "Whistler" Trilby : original issue with the suppressed illustrations and letter-press relating to James McNeill Whistler; together with Messrs. Harper & Brothers' letter of apology to the artist / / [by George Du Maurier]. Publisher: [New York] : Harper &Bros., [1894]

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