Andrew Jackson Kirkpatrick and the Whistler Painting

Andrew Jackson Kirkpatrick (1839-1900) was a Glasgow Merchant, the son of Thomas Kirkpatrick and Janet (Jean) Jackson.  The family had historic links to the Kirkpatrick family of Closeburn, Andrew’s uncles Alexander and John were both successful businessmen.  He married Catherine Turner, the daughter of  a wealthy merchant from Shandon in Dunbartonshire; her father Duncan Turner was a Produce Merchant with properties in Lagbuie and Glasgow.

As a young man Andrew lived with his parents at various central Glasgow addresses in a  substantial household.  In 1871 he is a visitor to the house of his sister, Jane and brother-in-law, William Monro, a doctor living in Arbroath.  By 1881 he is living in Woodside Place, an upmarket area of central Glasgow, with his wife and children.    Woodside Place has historical significance since Joseph Lister lived there in the 1860s while he was Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University.  In 1891 Andrew is living in his wife’s native Lagbuie with his growing family.

In the census for 1861 Andrew is listed as a ‘drysalter,’ this term describes dealers or merchants in a range of chemical products, including glue, varnish, dye and colourings.  In the 1881 and 1891 census he is described as a ‘Chemical Merchant.’  He is director of Middleton and Kirkpatrick, a chemical company;  his partner,  Robert T Middleton (1831-1891), was a merchant and a Liberal M.P. for Glasgow from 1880 until 1885.  Andrew has other business interests including the Northern Accident Insurance Company for which he is a director.

He is clearly a well-respected man and an active member of the Glasgow business community.  In 1894 he becomes a Justice of the Peace.  His name appears in the Edinburgh Gazette as a Commissioner in a bankruptcy in 1895, a responsible role that a successful merchant would be appointed to undertake.  In 1898 he is gives evidence on the value of telephones in business – extolling them as an essential for his business.

As many wealthy men did in the 19th century he developed a taste for art and became a collector of art and books.  He was admitted as a lay member of Glasgow Art Club on 28 February 1887 and was Chairman of the Council of the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts (RGI) 1891-1899.  In 1896 he is involved in an important exhibition of Burns material held in the galleries of the Royal Glasgow Institution, which includes books and artefacts from his own collection – among the artefacts are Burns memorabilia including a lock of hair from one of his relations.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was American,  with Scottish links through his mother.  An eccentric, opinionated man, his works were reviled and praised.  He had the ability to make enemies, including the critic Ruskin.  His works were highly prized by many collectors of modern art of the period.   In April 1886 Kirkpatrick purchased what he believed to be a painting by Whistler, Dream of Morning off Gravesend at an auction at Dowell’s Rooms, Edinburgh.  In 1889 he lent it for display at the 28th Exhibition of Works of Modern Artists, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts where it was shown alongside Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother.  A furious telegram from Whistler to Robert Walker, the Secretary of the Glasgow Institute, berated him and Kirkpatrick for daring to suggest that it was his work, and demanding a public denial be published.  Further letters demanded an investigation of the whole episode, Whistler was not satisfied that the painting had been withdrawn and seemed to feel that it may have been a deliberate insult.  A calming letter explained that it had been bought in good faith and that it had come from the collection of Mr G. B. Simpson of Broughty Ferry, who had bought it from Messrs Richardson & Company Fine Art dealers, 43 Piccadilly London. There can be no doubt that this must have been an expensive and embarrassing episode for the art collector.  The fate of the ‘sham’ Whistler is not recorded.

Andrew Jackson Kirkpatrick died in 1900.  His status as a book collector is clearly reflected by the publication in 1914 of the Catalogue of books & manuscripts; the property of the late Andrew J. Kirkpatrick, Esq. of Glasgow, and Lagbuie, Shandon, Dunbartonshire, sold by order of the executor (published for Sotheby’s by the Dryden Press).  The catalogue includes a number of fine editions mainly by British novelists and material relating to Scotland.

His family continued as part of the business community of Glasgow.  It is interesting to note that in Glasgow in June 1906 a car crash at the junction of  Glasgow Street and West Princes Street involved the car of ‘Mr Kirkpatrick of Lagbuie, Shandon,’ one of his three sons.

Names linked to Andrew Jackson Kirkpatrick include Monro, Jackson and Turner.

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