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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Seems like Whistler was a friend of Harringay House inhabitant Mrs Alexander, wife of banker William C Alexander of the City bankers Alexanders, Cunliffes & Co.

This item shows he was writing to Mrs A in 1872, one year after he painted the infamous Whistler's mother.

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In correspondence to family friend James Gamble on 5th November 1872, Anna Whistler (the famed Whistler's mother), wrote the following from their Chelsea home:

Did I  not write you of a Moonlight picture of this river exhibited in the Dudley Gallery last Autumn? We have formed a friendship with Mr Alexander & his family since he bought that in June. he is a Banker I dare say Mr Wann may know the firm of "Alexander & Cunliffe" suffice it, Jemie is painting a life size Portrait of his 2nd little daughter, nearly finished now, Mrs A has been bringing Cecily twice a week to stand in the Studio. Haringay House is eight Miles from here, so, of course they come for the day & lunch with me, thus my time is spent tho pleasant friends require the courtesies, it accounts for my not writing absent ones whose claim is more on my heart. I went once to the sweet home of the Alexanders in their carriage & staid from Saturday afternoon til Monday, attending their church & also the Lord's Table with them, so, at once we became attached! they look a youthful pair, tho they have seven children, Mai is to have a birth day party next Thursday afternoon her Mama told me, she will be ten years old, their first born darling! all of the little ones assemble with all the servants at morning worship. Mr A reading & praying devotedly, their home life is quite according to your ideas & mine! They seem to delight in dispensing the bounties of Providence, bringing me hot house Grapes, Peaches & Nectarines which I have been so thankful to share with a few invalid neighbours - they brought me sweet & choice Roses as long as they bloomed & I felt indulged!

You can see the painting of Alexander's daughter to in our gallery. The "Moonlight" painting ws Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea (YMSM 103) was exhibited in 1871 as 'Harmony in Blue-Green-Moonlight, copied in below.

Alexander also commissioned Whistler to paint two of his other children - Miss May Alexander (b. 1862) and Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander (b. 1867).

From the University of Glasgow website.

I've just come across some more info on Alexander & Whistler.

It seems like Alexander was a highly respected art collector, associated with the aesthetic movement who built up a priceless collection of paintings and donated works to galleries in London and Washington. What with Alexander & Gray, I'm beginning to wonder if there something about Harringay House that attracted people with an artistic eye - or perhaps that's just a flight of fancy!

Anyway, it seems like the relationship between Alexander and Whistler was strong and enduring. Alexander, it seems was one of Whistler's main patrons. Not only did he commission art works from him, he also had Whistler draw up designs for the house he moved to after leaving Harringay in 1873. And quite some house; he bought Aubrey House in Campden Hill, Kensington, by all accounts Kensington's largest private dwelling. A plaque on the house commemorates his time there.

From "The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography" Linda Merrill, Freer Gallery of Art



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