Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


Walter Dowdeswell

Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1858
Date of death: 1929
Category: print dealer


Walter Dowdeswell was a London art dealer. He was the son of the art dealer C. W. Dowdeswell. He had a brother Charles and a sister Eleanor.


Dowdeswell was first introduced to Whistler by Charles McLaren, MP and collector. In May 1884 Whistler held a one-man show, 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', at Dowdeswell's gallery on 133 New Bond Street, showing 38 oils, including Harmony in Brown and Gold: Old Chelsea Church y305, Red and Blue: Lindsey Houses y306 and Nocturne: Silver and Opal - Chelsea y309, 26 watercolours, including A shapely leg m0134, r.: A Lady with an admirer in church; v.: Christ with disciples; West Point cadets m0137, Copy after Cattermole's 'Man dispensing Alms' m0139 and r.: A Monk with a donkey, and a reclining figure; v.: a mediaeval lady, and other heads of men and women m0140, and 3 pastels. This was the first time Whistler's pastels were on public display. Whistler designed the catalogue which contained his important 'Proposition - No. 2'. He also designed the gallery decoration, calling it Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Grey. The press coverage was extensive and enthusiastic. However, many of the works were not immediately sold.

A further exhibition was held in May 1886, Arrangement in Brown and Gold. This time 75 works were on display, 48 of which were watercolours. The catalogue was again designed by Whistler. Once again the show was not a success financially but received good coverage in the press.

Dowdeswell was a significant dealer but also collector of Whistler's work. He owned a sketch relating to La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine y050: Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Grey: The Chinese Screen y051 was sold by Dowdeswell at auction in February 1917. He also bought Sketch for the Portrait of Carlyle (1) y133, and a number of drawings including Interior of a café m0243, Fontain à Heidelberg m0250 and The Sleeper m0309.

In 1887 Dowdeswell was appointed Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of British Artists, of which Whistler was President.

In 1910 the Dowdeswells acquired a large collection of paintings that were in a bad state of conservation, but which they believed had been destroyed at the time of Whistler's bankruptcy. These included Harmony in White and Blue y126. Some may originally have been painted by Whistler but over-enthusiastic restoration or repainting made it difficult to tell who had painted what. A number of paintings that the Pennells believed to be by Whistler were sold by Messrs Dowdeswell at Christie's in 1917 as being by Walter Greaves, Whistler's pupil.


Dowdeswell, Walter, 'Whistler', Art Journal, April 1887, pp. 97-103; 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. 799.